I have bad eyes, terrible ones really. They’re so bad that without glasses or contacts I couldn’t tell the difference between Steve McQueen the actor and Steve McQueen the director if they were standing five feet away from me. Having eyes this bad cause me to worry when it comes to VR. What if one day I can only wear glasses because contacts aren’t strong enough? What if I’m at an event and one of my contacts falls out? Will I ever be able to enjoy the technology I love without cramming it over a pair of frames, shoving pieces of plastic in my eye, or risking a blurry experience? A new Kickstarter campaign is promising help for people like me.
VR Lens Lab is currently attempting to raise $5,000 dollars on Kickstarter to create adapters for VR headsets that would eliminate the need to wear glasses or contacts to enjoy a VR experience. The project is the brainchild of Peter “Pit” Marx and Jay Uhdinger. Marx says he’s been an optometrist since 1986 and Uhdinger is a computer programmer. Uhdinger is also the co-founder behind another headset accessory, VR Covers.
I had the chance to speak with Uhdinger, who discussed the specifics of his new venture and detailed the exact way his corrective lenses fit over the existing ones.
“We use a semi-flexible rubber adapter that stretches just the right amount to sit tight on the lens cups of the consumer edition Gear VR. It is easy to put on and take off but sits tight when you use the headset,” Uhdinger said.
Currently, VR Lens Lab only has working prototypes for the Gear VR but Uhdinger mentioned they are actively working on models for each of the major VR headsets.
Eye problems come in a myriad of severities and types, but Uhdinger is confident that his new company can provide lenses to meet every need.
“It makes a lot of sense for people who have different prescriptions for each of their eyes such as -1 for the left eye and -3 for the right eye for example. The dioptre adjustment on the Gear VR cannot correct this but our prescription lenses can,” Uhdinger said. “The adapters work for both near-sighted and far-sighted people. We can also help people with astigmatism, or who need prisms and cylinders in their lenses. Basically we can do 90 percent of all prescriptions without any problems.”
If you find yourself in that 10 percent of unique cases not currently covered, you can get in touch with VR Lens Lab directly and they will do their best to create a custom solution.
If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, Uhdinger says the money will go toward molds to help create the adapters and enough lenses to complement them. The adapters are projected to ship in February and will cost £9 (around $10 USD) for plain lenses. Prescription lens adapters can be ordered for £29 (around $32 USD).
Ergonomics is becoming a larger and larger concern for VR as the final consumer versions of major headsets are revealed and the bar for comfort is raised beyond what would be expected of an in-progress dev kit. Oculus, for example, announced that it will ship its headset with multiple facial interfaces. However, Uhdinger remains optimistic that both VR Lens Lab and VR Covers will remain relevant.
“The ergonomic improvements Oculus made with CV1 are amazing. We think there will be a lot more changes in the future, but Oculus definitely made a pretty big leap in the right direction. With VR Covers we will adjust to what the market wants. We have built a lot more than just our fabric cover in the last 15 months and experimented with a wide range of materials for comfort and hygiene solutions for VR headsets and look forward to helping out in all those areas,” Uhdinger said.
VR Lens Lab’s Kickstarter campaign closes on Feb. 3.