Meta says it could build this futuristic VR headset

Meta says it could build this futuristic VR headset

Meta shows a rendering of a futuristic VR headset and claims that the device could be built today with existing components.

The rendered headset is based on the Mirror Lake research concept that Meta presented in the summer of 2022.

The concept is said to be the culmination of numerous technologies developed by Meta's Display Systems Research department over the past decade. These include holographic optics, a retinal resolution display, a module for variable focus, multi-view eye tracking, neural passthrough, and reverse passthrough. The latter displays the user's eyes on the front of the headset, allowing eye contact with the outside world. Apple Vision Pro already uses reverse passthrough, and calls the feature EyeSight.

Mirror Lake is not a product on Meta's hardware roadmap. The futuristic VR headset is a vision of Meta's researchers that aims to show how various new display technologies could be combined in a compact and lightweight device.

Mirror Lake: Doable with today's technology

During a talk at the University of Arizona's College of Optical Sciences, Douglas Lanman, director of Meta's Display Systems Research department, presented several headset prototypes from recent years.

At the end of the presentation, Lanman showed the mirror lake rendering and claimed that this concept could be realized today.

"Here's a rendering of a device we felt a few years ago that is practical to build now. Using Holocake, using multi-view eye tracking, using reverse passthrough, with hardware components that exist. We believe this headset which, we call Mirror Lake, which is just a rendering here, is actually achievable. So I think the industry is ready to move to another plateau."

During the Q&A session, Lanman adds, "It's a concept, but it does have a parts list. It's a real thing that we could build with significant time spent to make it."


Don't expect this kind of technology anytime soon

Building a prototype is one thing. Bringing it to market at an affordable price is another. Mark Zuckerberg said last year at the unveiling of Mirror Lake and a series of new VR prototypes that, given the current state, it could be another five to six years before these technologies make their way into products.

In his presentation, Lanman hinted that engineers would have to move the computer and battery off-board to achieve this kind of form factor and light weight. This means that Mirror Lake, if realized, would not be a completely standalone headset like the Meta Quest.

Headsets have a long way to go to achieve retinal resolution, varifocal optics, and high-quality passthrough in both direction, especially in a standalone form factor.