In the near future, parents and spouses will start complaining that their loved ones spend too much time in VR. “I don’t even remember what Jimmy looks like,” they’ll say. To curb this problem, Facebook is developing “reverse passthrough” technology that displays your pretty little eyes on the outside of your VR headset. PROBLEM SOLVED.
A post on Facebook’s research blog explains the concept. Basically, a headset with reverse passthrough technology creates a render of your eyes based on a 3D model of your face. It then shows the render on a pair of screens, which are mounted on the outside of the headset. Hence, the name “reverse passthrough,” a play on the “passthrough view” mode that lets Oculus Quest wearers see their real-world surroundings.
Anyway, these reverse passthrough screens use video filters to mimic the appearance of thick glass—a good idea, as without the illusion of depth, it would look like your eyes are floating at the end of your VR headset. While Facebook’s engineers didn’t reveal all the small tricks in place here, it seems that reverse passthrough tech will also use eye-tracking tech to recreate any eye movements you make.
In the above video, you can see researcher Nathan Matsuda demonstrating what a reverse passthrough technology looks like with and without the illusion of depth. Notice how his eyes look more “real” in the feed on the right? The light-field displays used in this prototype can actually imitate perspective and depth, creating the illusion that Matsuda’s “eyes” are close to his face.
While Facebook’s reverse passthrough prototypes are obviously, clearly, inarguably terrifying, they’re also pretty impressive. It’s easy to imagine how a polished version of this technology may find its way to future VR headsets, though such a development will take a long time. In the meantime, VR users should take off their headset every now and then to remind their family what they look like.