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Oculus's 'Half-Dome' Headset Offers Wide Field Of View, Better Close-Ups

The next Oculus headset could give you a whole lot more to look at. Today, at Facebook's F8 conference, Oculus Head of Project Management Maria Gernandez Guajardo unveiled "Half-Dome," a new prototype headset with a wider field of view and improved visibility for objects that are close to your face.  She also revealed that Oculus is developing advanced hand tracking capabilities so you can use your real fingers in the virtual world.

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Ever try reading a notepad in VR? Current headsets have fixed focal distances, which works well for viewing things a few feet away from you, but not so great for objects that are right in front of your face. The company's new Varifocal technology moves the internal displays closer or further from the lenses based on the content.

Guarjardo’s team also managed to increase the field of view in the headset to 140-degrees, which is roughly a 40-degree improvement over the Rift headset. And Oculus’s engineers managed to squeeze these improvements into a headset that's the same form factor and weight as the Rift.

In addition to the increased field of view and adjustment focal distance, the new headset features motion-capture cameras on the front to track hand and finger movement. Guajardo said that Oculus is “investing in new AI technology” to help bring your hands into VR in a more convincing way.

Today, the Oculus Touch controllers allow hand interaction in VR, but Oculus wants to bring your real hands into VR. For several years, Leap Motion has been leading the charge in finger and hand tracking, but Oculus’s new solution could surpass the capability of Leap Motion’s current tech for complex VR interactions. Oculus developed a motion capture technique called Deep Marker Labeling, which uses machine learning to interpret hand gestures as tracking markers. 

Oculus also uses the front-mounted cameras for 3D capture of the environment around you. The headset pumps the camera data through computer vision algorithms, which it can use to recreate a 3D rendering of the real world around you with stunning accuracy. If Oculus’s demonstration is to be believed, the company’s room-scanning technology seems to be more advanced than you'll find on Microsoft’s HoloLens.

Oculus didn’t say when we would see a product with the advanced cameras and focal system. We hope to see these innovations in Oculus’s upcoming Santa Cruz standalone VR headset. However, if we had to bet, we’d say the 140-degree FOV would be reserved for the next desktop connected Oculus headset, whenever that may materialize.