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Oculus unveils new Half Dome VR headset prototypes

It has been around a year since Oculus last showed off any of its in-development prototype VR headsets. This week though, we got a proper update, with a new pair of ‘Half Dome' VR headset prototypes being shown off at Oculus Connect 6, which could be leading towards a true next-gen Rift.

Facebook reality Labs Chief Scientist, Michael Abrash, revealed two new prototype designs this week, named the Half Dome 2 and Half Dome 3. Both headsets are said to offer improvements over the original Half Dome prototype seen last year.

The original Half Dome prototype featured Fresnel lenses and a 140° field of view. Oculus also experimented with a new eye tracking feature, which would move the displays based on where your eyes were focusing in order to retain a sharp image and a higher degree of user comfort.

At Oculus Connect 6 this week, the new Half Dome 2 was sporting a varifocal lens design instead. Other design changes were also made in the name of better ergonomics and comfort, including a more compact design and a big reduction in weight. Comparatively, the Half Dome 2 weighs around 200g less than the original prototype.

The Half Dome 2 does come with one downside though. The field of view is narrower than the original prototype but it is still 20% wider than Oculus Quest. The varifocal hardware in the Half Dome 2 has been considerably improved too, with on voice coil actuators and flexure hinge arrays being used to reduce friction, minimise noise and increase the lifetime of the mechanical moving parts.

While there was plenty of talk about the Half Dome 2, Oculus is already working on the next step up. The Half Dome 3 prototype features electronics to replace mechanical moving parts. The lenses in use have also changed again, moving towards a new liquid crystal lens design made from polarisation-dependent lenses. The lack of mechanical parts in the Half Dome 3 also paved the way for size and weight reductions to improve comfort.


KitGuru says: With improvements to VR headsets coming all the time, will Oculus’ new approach be the future for VR and could one of these prototype designs end up evolving into the Rift 2? 

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