[Parody] VR Headsets Are Not Revolutionary.

Please put on your 3D glasses Virtual Reality headset.

Different name, same game.

The Real Reality of Virtual Reality

Virtual reality has been a dream for so many. I remember seeing my first 3D image at a museum. It was fairly bad visually, but at least gave the impression of being there. The only honest reason why it was bad though is because of the colouration. Other than that the image was crystal clear. Technologies like the Oculus Rift have the opposite problem - they have lower resolution, but good colour. Another issue with VR technologies is they require a decent graphics driver to generate images for them. Lets take a look at the shopping list the official Oculus Rift team has recommended people for using their product.

The following have been randomly taken from results given by Google:
  • NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater [$350]
  • Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater [$200]
  • 8GB+ RAM [~$80, Ebay sellers]
  • 2x USB 3.0 [Irrelevant]
  • Windows 7 (???) [$120 - $430]
  • HDMI 1.3 output [Irrelevant]
  • ...and of course the Oculus Rift itself [$350 for DK2]

Approximate (best case scenario) cost to use an Oculus Rift:   $1100.00

It's pretty obvious here that using a VR headset will not be affordable for everyone. Seriously, with $1100 as the best case scenario, I think a lot of people will miss out on VR for awhile. Some people will already have a decent $800 computer, but what about people like me who are on laptops or older dual-core computers with sub-par graphics cards? Do we just stand-by and watch the rich kids?

Well, ladies and gents, there is something we can do.

Using What We've Had for a Century

Believe it or not, we've had VR-capable technologies for a long, looong time already! I was really surprised to learn that. People have been taking stereoscopic images since 1914.

There are 3 common ways to take stereoscopic pictures. You can use a tool called a "slide bar", which is just slides a camera along a bar/axis. They aren't used much today. The second way is to use 1 camera with 2 or more lenses and a long strip of film. When the shutter opens, the image from the different lenses is imprinted on the film. The last way is to use 2 or more physical cameras and cut and stitch the images together. Not very practical, but this is what digital cameras use today. So we haven't diverged much from what we've been doing for a long time.

Then we have 3 common ways to view these stereoscopic images. The basic idea behind all these methods is getting each image into one eye without them seeing both at once. This causes your brain to combine them, figure out the differences between the two, and create the illusion of depth.

The first method is called cross-viewing. You literally cross your eyes. Your right eye only sees the left image, and your left eye only sees the right image.

How am I supposed to enjoy anything while my eyes are calculating this projection plane?

The second method is called parallel-viewing. The idea is you use a device to prevent seeing both images at once. The VR headset solutions use this method.

Oculus Rift v0.01 alpha

The last solution is to use lens filters. This is the method movie theatres use today, but also the method those red and blue glasses you used to see do. The idea is the glasses filter out 2 images from the 1 image based on color or spectrum of light. These are called Anaglyph glasses. There are several forms of them and each attempting to improve the quality of image reproduction.

In this particular photo, a good pair of anaglyph red/cyan glasses can filter the cyan and red images, but also leave enough of the other colours to produce a good 3D image. They are currently much higher quality than any VR headset solution.

In order to use cinema-level 3D glasses, you'd need a specially designed monitor that emits polarized light. These already exist today and come in the form of 3D televisions and monitors. They are expensive though and sometimes half the resolution of regular monitors (to fit the extra pixels).

Anaglyph glasses seem like a good method of viewing 3D images, with the only downside being colour reproduction.

So why hasn't VR taken off before all these VR headset solutions?...Price, and quality. The price has always been on the cheap end. I recently bought 2 pairs of anaglyph glasses (red/cyan lenses for those unfamiliar with the term) for $1! The issue for many years has been quality image reproduction. It is not easy to reproduce these images without discolouration on normal monitors and paper. Wait a minute, paper? We can have 3D media embedded into paper?! Yeah, for a long time now. After many years of colour spectrum research too, people have been able to mostly get rid of the discolouration in anaglyphic images. So anaglyph glasses are actually a viable solution these days. Sure, having 2 monitors strapped to your eyeballs is more immersive. But turn off the lights in your room, fullscreen whatever you're watching, and you nearly get the same effect. In fact it's actually less effort to use anaglyph glasses compared to VR headsets, where you have to move your head to look.

Key Differences Between VR and 3D Technology

VR is meant to immerse you into a 3D world where you can look, move, and feel. You are at the center. The motions in real life translate to the virtual one.

3D glasses are designed to give media a sense of depth. Your viewing device (monitor) is the center. It is like looking through a window.

VR headsets need to be powered by exterior technologies. This ties VR headsets to computers. The setups are relatively expensive.

3D glasses are powerless. They can be used with any type of media - CRT, LCD, projectors, and even paper. This makes them very versatile. They are cheap as well.

Both VR and 3D require their media to speak a certain format.

So how can we improve 3D glasses vs VR headsets?

3D Glasses Improvements

3D glasses are missing the freedom of movement property. We need to equip people with head trackers. This alone is not enough because when they move their heads, the monitor won't move with them. Advances in OLED technologies will allow paper-thin, light-weight monitors to be mounted on the front of people's heads! This is a cheap VR headset alternative that people can even afford today. I'm laughing now writing this because it is entirely plausible and know what people are thinking reading this. I've 3D sketched a representation of what I'm thinking:

The black thing is the head-tracker.
Feels real already.

The idea is you have a pair of anaglyph glasses or goggles, and you put the display on. The displays emits an anaglyphic image and the glasses filter the images to create the depth effect. The display is twice the resolution of any VR headset, much smoother, and supports all the media VR headsets support.

A 9-inch LCD screen is $54, one pair of anaglyph glasses is $1, and lets say a head-tracker is $100. $155 for the same VR effect that VR headsets like the Oculus Rift offer. Wow. Now if a Chinese company mass produces curved 9-inch OLED screens so that they wrap around your peripheral vision, we could see some potential market for this.

(To those unaware, at this point you need lenses to refocus your eyes on the images, which forces us into parallel viewing...making the whole anaglyph method useless :)

Final Thoughts

The improved 3D anaglyph VR headset would be substantially cheaper than the alternatives, while offering more. The evidence is here. The next step is for someone to create a crowd-source funding page and monetize the hell out of it. And in the mean-time, while I wait for that and watch everyone else wait for their Oculus Rift and Steam VR, I'll be viewing my 3D media and games already in Super HD Stereo Vision!


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