As smartphones have pretty much become a commodity over the last five years, all major tech companies are now looking for the next big platform. For Microsoft, which clearly missed the mobile revolution, this could well be virtual reality and mixed reality. The first Windows Mixed Reality headsets will ship to consumers later this year, and we'll soon see if Microsoft can become an early leader in this burgeoning market.
Obviously, we're still years away from mass market adoption. First of all, the market will likely be fragmented between mixed reality headsets with translucent displays (such as Microsoft's HoloLens) and virtual reality headsets with opaque displays. Additionally, we'll probably see a fragmentation between wired headsets (such as the first Windows Mixed Reality headsets coming later this year) and completely untethered headsets. But ultimately, Microsoft sees head-mounted displays being replaced by much smaller near-eye displays.
Researchers at Microsoft Research recently revealed how they plan to create near-eye displays for virtual and mixed reality. "We desire a lightweight, compact and aesthetically pleasing design that is both comfortable to wear all day and socially acceptable," explained the researchers, acknowledging that current HMDs are probably not for everyone.
The team has already created a prototype near-eye holographic display in a sunglasses-like form factor with a wide field of view (80 degrees horizontal). "We find promise in this early prototype but note that the display is monoscopic and the driving electronics are external; significant challenges remain to build a practical stereo display," explained the researchers.
The research project also details an interesting challenge concerning people wearing correction glasses. "If we ultimately wish to make a display the size of eyeglasses, we must build the functionality of eyeglasses into the display," explained the researchers. That's why the team created a vision correction model to allow users to clearly view holograms without their glasses. "We demonstrate that holographic displays can correct for advanced vision problems entirely in software by pre-distorting the emitted light waves so that they appear correct when viewed by the eye," noted the blog post.
Microsoft Research will present the promising project this summer at SIGGRAPH 2017, the annual conference and exhibition in computer graphics and interactive techniques. You can learn more about it by checking the project page on Microsoft's website.