A demo of Meta’s VR headset Project Cambria showed how it will soon give us a gesture-based augmented reality interface, similar to how Tony Stark works with JARVIS in Iron Man and other Marvel movies.
Meta Quest (formerly Oculus Quest) is the most popular VR headset today in part because of cutting edge features such as hand tracking and the ability to transport your furniture into your VR space. But Quest will pale in comparison Meta’s next VR headset, Project Cambria, which will be an advanced VR headset that can turn sci-fi dreams into reality.
When Tony Stark uses his computer JARVIS to analyze problems and create inventions, he sees objects in 3D holograms that he manipulates using gestures, as if they were solid objects. This kind of interface will soon be possible for consumers like you and me with Meta’s upcoming VR headset Project Cambria.
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How it works
The first attempts to implement this kind of interface were through augmented reality headsets such as Microsoft Hololens, which projected images onto transparent displays in front of the user’s eyes. One of the problems with augmented reality glasses is their extremely limited field of view. You can see virtual objects but only within a small part of your field of vision, somewhat similar to the size of an iPad. Outside of that window, virtual objects disappear, which makes the experience unconvincing in my opinion.
Fortunately, it is possible to have augmented reality and mixed reality with an unlimited field of view using VR headsets. Normally, VR headsets block your vision completely and you can’t see anything outside your headset. However, VR headsets can be equipped with cameras that show the outside world. If the cameras are in color and are sufficiently detailed, with low latency, then a the VR headset can enable you to see the world, as though you were not wearing any headset. Virtual objects can then be overlaid anywhere on this full color passthrough display, creating the illusion that the virtual objects are floating anywhere. This is the approach used by headsets such as Varjo XR (€5995) and will also be in Project Cambria, which will hopefully be more affordable.
In addition to full-color passthrough, Project Cambria will also have gesture control. Combined with its mixed reality display, Project Cambria will enable us to play games that use our bedrooms as battlefields, or it can enable us to manipulate virtual objects for viewing and designing objects in 3D, just like Tony Stark. Meta calls this its Presence Platform.
I’m very excited for Project Cambria and I really hope that it is affordable. Meanwhile, you can get a rough demo of the Presence Platform on Oculus Quest and Quest 2 on App Labs, although the passthrough view will only be black and while, with low resolution.