Oculus Demos ‘Half-Dome’ Rift Prototype With 140-degree FOV And Moving Varifocal Screens

by VentureBeat • May 2nd, 2018

During the second day of Facebook’s F8 developer conference, Oculus demonstrated what appears to be a future version of its Rift VR headset, internally called “Half-Dome.” While preserving the form factor and weight of the current Rift, the fully functional Half-Dome prototype includes several major hardware innovations designed to increase visual immersion and comfort.

Above: Oculus Half-Dome.

The first and most amazing technology is Varifocal, a mechanical system that actually moves the screens within the headset depending on what you’re looking at, mimicking your eyes’ ability to focus on nearby objects. Oculus’ Maria Fernandez Guajardo noted that until now, the VR industry has had to place objects at a minimum two-meter distance to prevent users from having eye-focusing issues; Varifocal solves this, enabling you to read a note or examine an object in your hands. The feature uses an optimized mechanical design with no noticeable noise or vibrations.

Above: Varifocal moving screens inside of Half-Dome.

Another tweak is an enhancement to the standard field of view offered by traditional VR headsets, which is around 100 degrees compared with the average person’s 210-220-degree real world field of view. Half-Dome has a 140-degree field of view, a nice step up that increases your peripheral vision, enabling you to see — though not focus on — objects at the edges of your head. Oculus also suggested that improvements in display resolution would naturally follow due to the evolution of panel technologies.

Alongside the new hardware, Oculus also showed off software realism improvements for everything from hands to avatar face and body rendering, as well as tricks to reproduce real world 3D environments in VR. Since the first thing most players see in VR is their hands, Oculus is using a new system of “deep marker labeling” to pinpoint joint points on hands, track them accurately using 2D cameras, then represent them convincingly in 3D using AI solutions.

“The aim is to turn these marker positions into labeled hand poses that we will use to train our models,” said Guajardo, “but labeling hands is particularly hard for complex interactions.” Regardless, demonstrations showed individual fingers moving smoothly and hands manipulating a music box, all convincingly. Other demos showed head and mouth tracking that enabled photorealistic avatar head motions for person-to-person communications, including reasonably lip-synched speech, and the evolution of avatar bodies into increasingly complex forms. Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer said that the company is working on projects “to bring all of the body into VR.”

Above: Facebook’s Point Cloud technology for vaguely recreating rooms in 3D.

Environmental reconstruction is another big area of Facebook and Oculus development. On day one of F8, the companies showed off software that stitches photos and videos together into “point cloud” reconstructions of rooms. This software works with whatever existing reference images or videos you have of a space, but the VR-explorable product is deliberately hazy, like a moving 3D pointillist painting.

Oculus also showed a more sophisticated second system that uses a burst of stereoscopic images to create a photorealistic panorama in 3D — one that can be enjoyed in VR. This system uses image pairs to gather depth information, blending them together to create super-detailed 3D locations. Guajardo suggested that users’ “most evocative places” are their homes, parents’ homes, and favorite vacation spots, all of which can be recreated with this software without the need for professional equipment or artistic talent.

Above: Maria Fernandez Guajardo discusses Oculus’ photorealistic 3D VR room recreation technologies.

A demo of the second system showed a real room in a home next to a virtual 3D reconstruction. The real and VR spaces looked almost identical — so similar that you could only tell the difference in fine texture details, and the subtle presence of the videographer’s shoe in the original. Mirror reflections and other elements of the original scene were preserved.

Above: Maria Fernandez Guajardo discusses Oculus’ photographic burst technology for creating photorealistic 3D panoramas.

Schroepfer said that putting all of the innovations together demonstrates why Facebook is so excited about VR, and why it will become the only “way people will want to connect over long distances.” No dates were given for the release of the new software innovations or the Half-Dome successor to the Rift.

This post by Jeremy Horwitz originally appeared on VentureBeat.

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  • HomosDeusVR

    I WANT!

  • Bartholomew

    Holy f*ck take my money!

  • wheeler

    Varifocal displays? This is HUGE. I did not expect this for gen 2. Varifocal displays are necessary for casual adoption IMO.

    Combine this with eyetracking, high pixel density (pretty much implied by eyetracking), wireless, and a higher FOV … gen 2 is looking damn impressive. What’s next? A microled display so we can finally have true blacks?

    • J.C.

      I’m also surprised by this, but hey, that’s pretty awesome. I’m a Vive owner, but if Oculus can pull off this huge of a leap in tech for their second headset, and no one else has anything remotely at this level coming, I’m likely to buy Oculus next time. I’m hoping that their tracking technology has been upgraded as well…I REALLY don’t want to have to run USB cables all over my VR space to have 360 degree tracking.

      This is exciting stuff, glad to see a company actually stepping things up! THe Vive Pro seems pretty sad compared to this thing, BUT…keep in mind, the Vive pro exists TODAY (for an insane price), and there’s no release date for this new set Oculus is showing. If it’s still two years away, well…that’s far less exciting.

      • mirak

        just imagine how much that varifocal oculus would cost
        that would be way way more than the Vive Pro I think

        • John

          The super expensive “pro” vr gear days are over. Sure a premium is expected for a next gen enthusiast device. But not Vive pro stupidity. FB/oculus have no need for that.

          • mirak

            So you are saying I am right, thanks.

          • polysix

            no, he’s clearly saying you’re wrong (and you are). Oculus have established a mainstream pricing structure, and while it may launch a bit higher than current prices of gen 1, it won’t be stupidly priced. They are NOT stupid when it comes to VR they know they need penetration and they have the money to do it. Haven’t you noticed how they transformed the entire VR landscape with that massive Rift price cut already?

            Varifocal need not ‘cost’ a lot either, that’s how oculus work. They prototype then refine, then get costs down BEFORE releasing, not after. That is why they take their time to get it right. The actual tech to do this is probably not even that expensive once bought in massive bulk and refined down to the minimal parts. Let oculus worry about the costs, you just sit back and look fwd to it instead of spreading misinformed conjecture as reality.

            I think you are being pessimistic and making up scenarios that have no evidence of existing. Don’t base your projections on what stupid HTC are doing with the janky and un-desirable vive pro. I’ve had Vive, PSVR and rift btw, the only really good one is Rift. Nobody wants Vive any more, even less vive “pro”. This rift gen 2 is a REAL step forward not a sidestep like vive pro. It’ll sell millions if they hit the right price point, they know that.

          • mirak

            Oculus cuted the price because it was killed by HTC.

            You are delusional. This Oculus is not going to be released anytime soon. It was confirmed on Reddit.

          • daveinpublic

            On Reddit? I’ll believe it if you post a link.

        • Xron

          I guess you might be right… having moving parts might add complexity and cost.

      • My guess is that they’ll lift the inside-out tracking from Santa Cruz into Rift 2, and the 2-4 external cameras will be replaced by ONE/possibly two (kinect-like) camera(s). So you’ll still need some USB cables, but you’ll get added body-tracking and redundancy to cover occlusion/movements outside the inside-out FOV.

      • polysix

        Not surprised, they’ve been talking about this research for over a year! I was fully expecting oculus to go above and beyond the poor janky efforts of the competition when it came to gen 2. Seriously, oculus is the ONLY company that actually “gets” VR and what it needs instead of just spec in a box.

        • FriendlyCard

          Thumbs up, just because your name is a beautiful synth.

  • Tommy

    *slow clap…
    Well done Oculus. My interest is highly piqued!

  • Kenny Thompson

    Please lord, gimme inside out tracking!

  • polysix

    This, and already the quality present in the current rift (and after owning and dis-owning Vive and PSVR) are the reasons I continue to only be able to take OCULUS seriously for VR. Everyone else misses the point, Pimax with it’s stupid res boasting but woeful everything else, Vive (pro) with it’s (still) devkit like build and ergonomics, poor controls etc.

    Oculus is hands down the only company on earth who currently understands the need for the smaller, but vital parts of the VR puzzle to be created, refined and delivered in a polished, high quality fashion leading to a balanced VR system that is fun to use, interact with and wear. While steam VR stuff continues to fight against the oculus positives with stupid stuff like touch pads and bad head mounts then clearly oculus will always get my interest first as the only competent company concerning usable, every day VR that is high quality in build and use and innovative where it counts (not just res increase which is more down to panel makers than HMD makers and will always increase as a given over time).

    Well played oculus. Day one purchase for me if this delivers.

    • Fedotov Maxim 🌐

      Oculus R&D is definitely on another level, but people shouldn’t forget who owns them. I am glad for them to contribute to overall VR ecosystem, but I will not be getting their products and get owned by Facebook down the line.

      • Kalle

        I don’t get why ppl are getting hung up about Facebook. So what, they are big… At least they are driving VR forward. And all companies.

        • Its not about them being big. Its about them being a monopoly and using users data to drive their profits. There has been A LOT of talks and evidence about how they are not going to care about your privacy when it comes to VR. And while we’ve already seen in last couple years the implications of them having so much control over users data, its going to be exponentially more dangerous as they get access to our biometric data, eye tracking data, etc which will come with future VR technology iterations. Check out Voices of VR interviews with Oculus, plenty of articles written on this, just Google about it

          • daveinpublic

            For now, they’re the only game in town. When Apple comes out with there’s, you can be sure that they’ll respect your privacy a lot more and probably have a high quality experience. I’m sure I’ll jump on the bandwagon when it’s released, probably in 2020. But for now, FB is the biggest game in town.

            Question, do you use Android as your operating system? 🙂

        • I was on board with people saying Oculus being acquired by Facebook is a great thing and just like you was surprised by all the sceptics. But closely reading about both Facebook and Oculus since then, I completely changed my opinion as the evidence speaks for itself.

      • koenshaku

        Those facebook cameras they use as sensors is harmless they only sell your privacy as a business model lol.

  • They showcased a lot of cool stuff from their R&D department. But to see them in a product we will need a lot of time

  • Tree Snipe

    If its wireless, i’ll have no part in it.

    60GHZ 801.11 AY/AX routers strapped to your skull is the nail in your coffin.

    We have yet to begin really studying human health concerns and the physiological properties vs cells but the conversations within respected scientists circles in various fields of study indicate that this wavelength impacts oxygen absorption and hemoglobin by effecting electrons orbital properties and in doing so can wreak havoc on our metabolic faculties.

    I’ll keep the cords. I’m no lab rat.

    • bobbysaysboo

      hi tree snipe could you link to any ref regarding this
      >>>but the conversations within respected scientists circles in various fields of study indicate that this wavelength impacts oxygen absorption and hemoglobin by affecting electrons orbital properties and in doing so can wreak havoc on our metabolic faculties<<<

    • rob

      …that doesn’t make any sense. The hmd only has to receive the video signal, the only thing strapped to your head will be an antenna and the hardware to process the data. The actual router will be at least 1-2 meters away from you.

    • Joshwa Sanders

      Everything you’ve said is incorrect.

      Oxygen affects pathloss at 60GHz; this has nothing to do with your body’s oxygen absorption. At that high of a frequency, it will simply reflect off of your body.

      Studies have shown time and time again that radio frequency is non-ionizing and does not “cook your brain” or cause cancer.

  • Morality_Mortality

    Tell me when I can pre-order !

  • daveinpublic

    140 degrees FOV is incredible, especially since Pimax extra FOV seemed like a lens add on, distracting and janky in use, plus all the recent delays. Hopefully it’s fixed before launch. Also, this new hand tracking looks true next gen. The only question is if Facebook can beat Apple to the punch, even though Apple is still just rumors.