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Avegant Virtual Retinal Display: Prototype hands-onMove over, Oculus Rift: Avegant's next-gen "virtual retinal display" projects images directly into your eyeballs. CNET's Tim Stevens checks out the prototype, and gets all the details from Avegant CEO Ed Tang.
-Hi everybody, it's Tim Stevens with CNET. We're here with the CEO of Avegant to look at a new device we got to introduce into the market a little bit later this year or early next year. Ed Tang, CEO of Avegant, we've got a bit of a jumble of wires here, but I've always up to this. What is this? -This is a-- It's a new media platform that we're introducing next year and one of the core technologies that we developed at Avegant is this revolutionary display technology and it's called the Virtual Retina Display. And what's different about a virtual retinal display versus any other kind of display is it projects light directly into the eye. We're actually mimicking our natural vision, right, because optics is around us. Nothing is emitting light. Nothing is glowing light, right? Everything we see around us is reflective light and that's why things just seemed that much more real, vivid, natural, the most important, comfortable. -So from a hardware standpoint, how is that compared to something like a traditional virtual reality headset, which has been like an LCD in front of your eyes? -Right. So, LCD panels like LCDs and all of that, those are all emissive light. -Uh huh. -That's very challenging to get emissive light to look really, really good and really comfortable for-- for your eye. And by reflecting light in your eye is how we can-- how we can mimic that natural vision. And we have a really, really interesting approach to addressing that issue. -What was that? -We're using-- We're using a brand new micrometer technology here. -I know Google is looking the technology like this when they were developing glass and they ultimately win a different path. -Right. -Because they have some issues. They're trying to get to like focus correctly for the-- -Right. -wide variety of people. How have you been able to address that? -My co-founder is a brilliant, brilliant scientist and so he was able to have some of the best optical design resources. -Now I think there are probably some people who feel a little bit worried about something beaming and even directly into their eyes-- -Sure. Yeah. -without any concern about eye strain or-- something like that. -No, not at all. There were previously people who have tried using lasers and that's inherently there's some dangerous to that. We're not using any lasers. We're using a very, very low power light source and always a simply shining a really dim light on some mirrors. -So a from consumer standpoint, what's the main advantage of this new technology over traditional LCD panel or something like that? -You get a completely different level of realism. It's like looking at a TV of a picture of the outside versus looking through a window-- -That's good. -like that's kind of the level of difference you see in image quality and realism. You can stare it for hours. You can stare at it all day and feels totally comfortable, unlike staring at LCD screen, your eyes will be tired after an hour. -Uh huh. -So, inherently, the resolution of this is WXGA, which is 1280 x 800. -Uh huh. -But what's interesting is because of the way we send light in your eye, the perceived resolution is incredibly high. So when you get a chance to see it you'll notice that you don't see any pixelation, any screen-door effect. No gaps in the screen. The other interesting to point out is not only is the resolution really high, but their frame rate can be extremely high. I mean, this prototype right now, it can run 240 frames a second. -Wow. -And we're able to push that up if we need to. -But would you see this hitting the market maybe something like better to the Oculus Rift with a gaming-style applications or may be more for, you know, multimedia-style 3D imagery applications, or-- -We were focused on the media standpoint lately. -Okay. -There's a lot of interest in Oculus. What they're doing to virtual reality, I think it's fantastic. They've been trying to bring virtual reality to the mass market. -Uh huh. -And then the other end of the spectrum, they have something like Google glass where they're trying to give you the always connected kind of glanceable display. -Right. -We're kind of targeting a different market here. We think that-- that with the level of experience that we can deliver here that there's something really interesting. We're seeing a lot of demand for consumers who wanna consume media games to really put it on. So what I would encourage you to do is to close one eye and adjust the focus so we can actually adjust the spacing between here and here. You're seeing single image? -Yeah. Wow. -Is it comfortable? -Yeah. It is. -So go ahead and hold on to that whenever you're ready. -Okay. I'm ready. -All right, here we go. This is the screen image display. -Uh huh. -The image you're seeing is being projected directly on your retina. You just get an image that is so much vivid and realistic, but most of all it's a very comfortable image. -I spent a fair amount of time wearing the Oculus Rifts and even with the HD version, you can still see some, you know, some minor pixelation and there's always a little bit of eye strain involved too, you know, when you get to adjust it. But this is very, very comfortable. I mean, the device is perhaps not the most comfortable-- -Yes. -When in terms of comfort for my eye, yeah, it is quite comfortable and, yeah, the resolution is quite good and the color is quite good too. I wish everybody at home was able to see. All right. Now, I have a new version or a different version, I guess I should say, a version up here which adds head tracking and slightly different design, but then the big difference is this must get head tracking stuck on the side here. -Right. Right. You know, it's a slightly different prototype based on the same technology. -Uh huh. -We're always continually trying out different sensors and different adjustment mechanisms so this is another element that you can-- you can experience. -All right. Let's try to the sky up. -So, what you're seeing is a very, very low resolution video streaming off the internet. -Uh huh. So now, again, prototype hardware when might we expect to see something a little bit more finalized? -We expect to have the consumer facing prototype early in quarter one next year. -Maybe CES time, January? -Maybe CES, we'll see. -That would be great. All right, thanks for [unk] today. With pleasure, I can't wait to see the final version. Again, it's Tim Stevens checking up the Avegant prototype virtual retinal display.