Meta’s new VR prototypes won Siggraph awards, but what do the testers say?

By | August 14, 2023

Image: Meta

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Meta’s futuristic research prototypes Butterscotch Varifocal and Flamera struck a chord with Siggraph.

The North American Siggraph conference is held once a year and focuses on innovations in computer graphics.

This year, Meta presented two headsets for the public to try at the show: the Butterscotch Varifocal, which combines near-retinal resolution with varifocal opticsand Flamera, which demonstrates one new approach to distortion-free pass-through. The prototypes are for demo and research purposes only and are not intended to be produced in this form.

Nevertheless, they impressed the audience and won three awards in the Emerging Technologies category: Flamera won Best in Show and Audience choicewhile Butterscotch Varifocal entered the official selection for the Digital Content Association of Japan.

First impressions from Siggraph

A number of show attendees took to Twitter to share their impressions of the prototypes.

XR analyst Anshel Sag wrote of the Butterscotch Varifocal that it “looked good and focused well” but didn’t seem to work well for people with glasses.

The VR studio UWU was pleasantly surprised. “…If it wasn’t for the FOV and a very slight latency when the panels changed focus, we’d have a hard time knowing if we even had a headset on. It’s so obvious…”

VR developer and photogrammetry professional Azad Balabian was less impressed, finding none of the demos spectacular. With the Flamera, the field of view was “super narrow” (30 degrees) and therefore a perspective-rich review “not really perceptible”.

Butterscotch Varifocal was more interesting to him as it allowed him to experience varifocal focus shift in VR for the first time, albeit in the form of an old and mechanical design. In addition, the resolution was impressive, but he has seen that before with other headsets.

The only detailed practical report I could find online was provided by David Heaney for UploadVR. His impressions of the Butterscotch Varifocal make for interesting reading. In his final thoughts, Heaney writes that the sharpness and detail were “breathtaking to behold”.

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