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Better user-experience for glasses wearers is key to VR mass-market adoption

Having a true “one product fits all” solution is vital to opening up a mass market for the VR industry. Right now, VR manufacturers are designing headsets for a 20-year-old with perfect vision. If the VR industry is to reach actual market adoption, OEMs must offer a more comfortable user-experience for a global audience, many of whom will be glasses wearers. Adaptive lenses provide a unique way of correcting for personal prescriptions, making both personalisation and device shareability possible.

Why is wearing glasses uncomfortable with VR headsets?

If you wear glasses, you know first hand – if you’ve used VR that is – that they don’t work well with VR headsets for several reasons. Some headsets push glasses frames into the nose and face, which is uncomfortable. Larger frames may not fit into headsets at all, and additional space must be left for glasses to prevent lens scratching, which makes the headset bulkier for everyone. For some users, the increased distance between the eye and the lens in the headset also results in a reduced field of view.

The issue becomes much more visceral when we take into account individual prescriptions. Last year, VR Bound published a guide that details how specific prescriptions can impact the immersiveness and experience of VR headsets. The guide explains how – depending on various prescription needs – users can experience anything from minor detail omission to full-blown eye strain and nausea.

Have OEMs been effective at mitigating the problem?

Several leading HMDs have attempted to develop a product that can be worn by all. For example, HTC Vive has designed a headset with modifiable interpupillary distance, while Playstation VR is built with an adjustable interior depth to accommodate thicker glasses. Meanwhile, Oculus has deployed more extensive accessibility solutions through a range of add-ons to its headsets. These range from glasses spacers that add extra depth, to customisable prescription lens inserts.

Unfortunately, prescription lens inserts make it harder to share experiences with others. This would be especially problematic for business applications and exhibitions where headsets need to be easily shared by a large number of users. Despite their best efforts, we continue to see articles published every year, with less than favourable reviews of the compatibility between VR headsets and glasses. This shows that somewhere in the design process, the industry is not giving enough consideration to the needs of those who make use of corrective eyewear.

The reality is that two-thirds of the world’s population need some form of corrective eyewear to see clearly. So if VR is to have actual mass-market adoption, it needs to create a more comfortable experience for glasses wearers.  

How can this issue be solved?

For the VR industry to access the broadest possible market, it will require the use of a technology capable of two seemingly incompatible functions: the ability to personalise the optics of the headset to the individual’s prescription, and the ability to alter the optics of the headset to allow shareability at both the consumer and enterprise level. Adaptive lenses could offer a unique way of correcting for personal prescription, making both personalisation and shareability possible.

Integrating adaptive optics could allow VR manufacturers to design a comfortable product, gives personal visual clarity and can be shared. Adaptive optics could enable VR headsets to be adjusted to individual prescriptions, removing the need for glasses. This would make headsets more comfortable and able to address a much larger market segment.

When will these solutions come to market?

Adlens works with leading technology companies on R&D for the next generation of VR products. These solutions will not be on the market tomorrow, but as OEM’s understanding of the importance of the optical interface grows, we believe that one day, all but the cheapest headsets, will include some form of adaptive optics. 

John Kennedy

CEO of Adlens

John is CEO of Adlens, the company pioneering the development of lenses that change focus like the human eye-enhancing vision in XR, VR and eyewear.