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These are the VR headsets Meta doesn’t want you to use

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These are the VR headsets Meta doesn’t want you to use

Meta has been working on over a dozen VR headset prototypes, but it doesn’t want you to use any of them ever. That’s because these bulky “time machines” as it calls them aren’t aimed at consumers but are internal proof of concepts for its internal designers only. 

During a virtual round table last week, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg and members of Meta’s Reality Labs division demonstrated several of these prototypes. Many of them have their internal circuits exposed, and some even look like you’re strapping the entire contents of a desktop PC to your face – complete with extra-large cooling fans and side handles to hold so your neck doesn’t snap under the weight.

That latter one with the handles is a prototype called Starburst. The bulk is caused by Starburst containing a display that can achieve a brightness up to 20,000 nits so as to improve its HDR capabilities massively over the Quest 2. A great TV can achieve a few thousand at most and the Quest 2 can only achieve around 100 nits.

High dynamic range (HDR) is the tech used by displays to help bright colors pop out from your screen while keeping dark objects in the same image well defined. Without HDR, your picture can look washed out; like the contrast has been turned down too far.

Meta's prototype VR headsets

Starburst in all its glory, complete with handles to hold it to your face. (Image credit: Meta)

HDR is apparently the tech that is most commonly linked to improved realism in VR. Unfortunately, Starburst is wholly impractical as an actual VR headset for regular folk to use. But as with all of the other prototypes, Zuckerberg explained that the goal is for these headsets to “help us identify which technical paths are going to allow us to make meaningful enough improvements that we can start approaching visual realism.”

By taking different aspects of its headsets to the extreme, Meta can work out where the most gains can be made while also keeping its headsets usable. If there’s an aspect – like HDR – that can have a massive impact but isn’t practical to implement with current tech, Meta can use these prototypes to determine which areas deserve more R&D resources.

So while we won’t ever see Starburst in action for ourselves, we could find echoes of its tech in the headsets Meta does launch – like its upcoming Project Cambria headset and the so-called Meta Quest 3 (a follow-up to the hugely popular Quest 2).

Alongside Starburst, Meta also unveiled several other prototypes.

Butterscotch reduces the headset’s field of vision from the Quest 2 – cutting it down by about half – but offers two and a half times the resolution. This near-retina-quality display makes reading text in VR much easier and Zuckerberg explains that Butterskoth offers 55ppd. 

Meta has previously stated that 60 Pixels per degree (ppd) is what it is striving to achieve. This is the mark where our eyes start to stop noticing improvements in visual fidelity but currently, the Quest 2 can only reach 21ppd. Apple is also attempting to improve this aspect of its own long-rumored headsets, with high-end displays seemingly a priority for the Californian tech giant.

Meta's prototype VR headsets

Meta’s virtual Holocake 2 prototype (Image credit: Meta)

Then there is the Half Dome series of prototype VR headsets. Starting with Half Dome Zero back in 2017, the fourth generation Half Dome 3 is lighter, and more comfortable, and has replaced Half Dome 2’s mechanical parts with electronically controlled liquid crystal lenses.

Using eye-tracking the Half Dome headsets are designed to mimic real-world vision. If you’re looking at something off in the virtual distance it will be brought into focus while your foreground blurs, or vice versa if you want to look at something you’re holding.

According to Meta, this feature has helped participants immerse more in their VR surroundings and made it a much more comfortable experience.

Last but not least was Holocake 2, the only headset prototype Meta discussed that wasn’t a real object. This sleek design could be confused for a pair of slim ski goggles and builds upon a 2020 model that used holographic optics.

How holographic optics work compared with standard optics

How Holocake 2’s holographic optics would work (Image credit: Meta)

As seen in the GIF above, the left-hand conventional approach requires a fair amount of space and a thick curved refractive lens. Meanwhile, the holographic optics method on the right can use much thinner, flat lenses and panels that can be much more squashed together. The end result would be Holocake 2, a headset that is super lightweight and small.

Meta is still some time from making these a reality though. As Mark Zuckerberg explained, “We’ll need to do a lot of engineering to achieve a consumer-viable laser that meets our specs; that’s safe, low-cost, and efficient, and that can fit a slim VR headset.”

The safety concerns come from Meta using a laser instead of something like a standard OLED display. Lasers and eyes don’t mix, and we imagine Meta doesn’t want there to be any chance of one of its VR headsets – prototype or not – blinding a wearer.

With Project Cambria still slated to launch this year it hopefully won’t be long before we see some of these prototype’s efforts shown off in one way or another. Based on what it has shown off already, we can’t wait to see what Meta will be bringing to the VR space next.

(via The Verge (opens in new tab))

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign


Author: Mark Hachman
, Senior Editor

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon


Author: Michael Crider
, Staff Writer

Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more
Google Pixel watch



The Google Pixel Watch is incoming
(Image credit: Google)

We’re expecting the Google Pixel Watch to make its full debut on Thursday, October 6 – alongside the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – but in the meantime a major leak has revealed much more about the upcoming smartwatch.

Seasoned tipster @OnLeaks (opens in new tab) has posted the haul, which shows off some of the color options and band styles that we can look forward to next week. We also get a few shots of the watch interface and a picture of it being synced with a smartphone.

Watch faces are included in the leak too, covering a variety of different approaches to displaying the time – both in analog and digital formats. Another image shows the watch being used to take an ECG reading to assess heartbeat rate.

Just got my hands on a bunch of #Google #PixelWatch promo material showing all color options and Watch Bands for the first time. Some details revealed as well…@Slashleaks 👉🏻 https://t.co/HzbWeGGSKP pic.twitter.com/N0uiKaKXo0October 1, 2022

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Full colors

If the leak is accurate, then we’ve got four silicone straps on the way: black, gray, white, and what seems to be a very pale green. Leather straps look to cover black, orange, green and white, while there’s also a fabric option in red, black and green.

We already know that the Pixel Watch is going to work in tandem with the Fitbit app for logging all your vital statistics, and included in the leaked pictures is an image of the Pixel Watch alongside the Fitbit app running on an Android phone.

There’s plenty of material to look through here if you can’t wait until the big day – and we will of course be bringing you all the news and announcements as the Google event unfolds. It gets underway at 7am PT / 10am ET / 3pm BST / 12am AEDT (October 7).


Analysis: a big moment for Google

It’s been a fair while since Google launched itself into a new hardware category, and you could argue that there’s more riding on the Pixel Watch than there is on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro – as Google has been making phones for years at this point.

While Wear OS has been around for a considerable amount of time, Google has been leaving it to third-party manufacturers and partners to make the actual hardware. Samsung recently made the switch back to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, for example.

Deciding to go through with its own smartwatch is therefore a big step, and it’s clear that Google is envious of the success of the Apple Watch. It’s the obvious choice for a wearable for anyone who owns an iPhone, and Google will be hoping that Pixel phones and Pixel Watches will have a similar sort of relationship.

What’s intriguing is how Fitbit fits in – the company is now run by Google, but so far we haven’t seen many signs of the Fitbit and the Pixel lines merging, even if the Pixel Watch is going to come with support for the Fitbit app.

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you’ll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.

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