Avegant’s Virtual Retinal Display Brings Immersion One Step Closer

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — Video viewers on the go may soon have an intriguing new option for “big-screen” style viewing in a pocket-sized form factor, at least if the latest entrant into the wearable headset monitor field has its way.

Enter Avegant’s Virtual Retinal Display, which takes a different tact from its competitors by projecting dual discrete images onto the headset wearer’s retinas.

According to the company, Avegant’s new platform will allow users to interact with their media and data in new ways, allowing for new forms of storytelling. This revolutionary platform revolves around Avegant’s virtual retinal display technology that interacts with the user’s eyes in the way that they naturally function.

“By reflecting light into your eyes, you’ll see your media and data the way they’re supposed to be experienced: lifelike and vividly,” an Avegant rep explains, “Built and patented on cutting edge micromirror technology, this platform is a revolution in the way in which you’ll consume media.”

Although currently only a wearable prototype, Avegant’s Virtual Retinal Display is set to take on devices such as the Oculus Rift — which is already targeted by a small handful of forward looking adult entertainment companies. Where these two devices differ is in their approach: Wheras the Oculus Rift displays its 3D images using a single LCD panel along with optical techniques to provide the illusion of immersion, Avegant’s offering relies on direct retinal projection, using a pair of 1,280x768 pixel WXGA monitors targeting each of the viewer’s eyes, doubling the resolution of the Oculus Rift.

“I was looking around and one day I realized that we don’t stare at things that glow, we stare at light,” Avegant co-founder and CTO, Allan Evans, stated. “So I started looking at how light actually is perceived, and I connected with an optics researcher and we started building giant boxes to prove the concept.”

“It ended up working and we tried to miniaturize it,” Evans added.

It is a challenging technical proposition, with companies such as Google having passed on the technology when developing its Glass device, primarily due to problems with the precise alignment required for it to achieve its full effect. Avegant relies on an adjustable frame and high-quality, individually adjustable optics, to gain the correct alignment, with the device’s micromirror array delivering a pristine image, without the user squinting or having to focus on a screen image that is too close for proper vision.

According to Avegant CEO Ed Tang, now that the device’s optics and technology have come together, it’s time to make it more comfortable and stylish, which is required for achieving its goal of being a publically wearable solution for mobile video viewing.

“Fully immersive virtual reality is really cool, but that’s not something you’re going to use while traveling or out of the home,” Tang stated. “We’re trying to make something that you can wear comfortably for hours that you can wear on an airplane, mostly because I want to watch movies on airplanes.”

The company reportedly hopes to display the final product at the upcoming CES.

“Whether this follows in the footsteps of the Oculus Rift and becomes a crowdsourced darling largely depends on whether Avegant can make the product look good, make it cheap enough, and come up with a truly compelling use case,” Tim Stevens wrote for CNET. “None are small challenges, but the company has already cleared the biggest hurdle in creating the core technology.”

As computing becomes ever more mobile, the quest for bigger and better displays will only continue; with Avegant’s Virtual Retinal Display poised to lead the way down a path that many pornographers, and consumers, will no doubt follow.

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