Nvidia unveils quad-resolution VR tech

July 28, 2014 // 12:12 p.m.

Tags: #cascaded-display #display-cascading #headset #nvidia #oculus-rift #virtual-reality #vr #vr-headset

An Nvidia researcher has revealed a manufacturing technique that could quadruple the perceived resolution of future virtual reality headsets, using a technique called 'display cascading.'

Interest in virtual reality has exploded of late, thanks largely to a record-breaking Kickstarter crowd-funding programme and subsequent $2 billion Facebook buy-out by Oculus VR, creator of the Oculus Rift headset family. Its initial product, the Oculus Rift Developer Kit, used low-resolution displays to create an immersive three-dimensional environment before the wearer; its successor, the Developer Kit 2, switches to a higher-resolution panel that better hides the individual pixels that can spoil the illusion. They're not entirely hidden, however, owing to the close-up nature of the display that floats just a few inches away from the wearer's eyes.

A prototype headset produced by Nvidia suggests a new technique for improving the perceived resolution of virtual reality displays, according to a report in MIT's Technology Review today. The brainchild of David Luebke, senior director of research in visual computing at Nvidia, the prototype uses a cascaded display system produced by modifying two otherwise unremarkable off-the-shelf liquid-crystal display panels.

The spatial light modulation panel - a layer of tiny shutters, one per pixel, that can block off or allow light through - from one LCD is removed and placed over a second panel, offset from its own. This offset effectively splits each pixel into four individually-addressable areas - quadrupling the effective resolution at the cost of a decrease in brightness. Coupled with some clever driver optimisations, Luebke claims a cascaded display offers both improved resolution and a doubling of perceived framerate - achieved by running the two panels out of synchronisation.

Luebke is to formally unveil the manufacturing technique at a conference in August, but the company's research is already available for access on the official website.

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