Making the Metaverse: Hardware Hurdles, Discussed by IDTechEx

By November 24, 2021Metaverse
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BOSTON, Nov. 24, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Are you fed up with Zoom? Do you want online interactions to feel more… interactive? The metaverse promises a step-change in how society communicates but, without the hardware technology, will ultimately remain a pipe dream.

The metaverse will require capabilities from AR, VR, and legacy devices. Source: IDTechEx
The metaverse will require capabilities from AR, VR, and legacy devices. Source: IDTechEx

We will still be able to interact with the metaverse through our phones and laptops, but these will become legacy devices. To immerse ourselves, however, requires a virtual reality (VR) headset; for true integration between the created and the physical, augmented reality (AR) devices are required.

The endgame is for virtual worlds to exist seamlessly alongside the real, with immersive interactions between the two changing our perception of physical presence. The software for this is nearly there, but the hardware still has many hurdles to overcome.

A touchstone in the augmented and virtual reality device industries is social acceptability and without advances in sensing, display, and optics technology, AR and VR headsets will not be sleek enough to achieve this. Despite billions of dollars being poured into development, true AR glasses are still nowhere near the point of sitting alongside Ray-Bans in terms of appearance or displaying images that are of IMAX quality. Meta (formerly Facebook) announced its AR glasses project at the same time as its name change, admitting they were years from viability. VR headsets sometimes invite comparisons to Robocop - only the highest-end devices start to blur the lines between what is real and what is not.

Long term, the goal is a light and comfortable device that you can wear all day, switching between AR and VR whilst enabling natural interactions between yourself and other metaverse users. The technological journey towards the hardware needed to create this hypothetical device presents even more compelling developments and complex challenges than the software.

Seeing into created realities

Putting a screen right in front of your eyes reveals things we do not notice whilst looking at a phone or TV. We see the gaps between pixels in a phenomenon called the screen door effect and the rule of thumb is that 60 pixels per degree (ppd) of field of view are required for VR or AR to start looking like reality, leading to big demands on resolution. On top of this, optics are required to focus and size these images correctly for our vision. In the case of AR, these optics are very inefficient, leading to brightness demands in the millions of nits – for reference, the iPhone 13 Pro Max screen maxes out at 1200 nits.

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