Direct-to-retina imaging – VR in the real world?

Could glasses, that exist today and project images of actual reality directly onto the retina, eventually evolve into a vehicle for allowing VR to be experienced without shutting out the outside world?

New glasses project images directly onto retina with a mini-laser

I for one have wondered what will be the future of VR goggles. It seems clear (pardon the pun) that until we can free our heads from the giant headsets that have to block out the real world, so that we can see the virtual world, we won’t be able to blur the lines between real reality, and virtual reality, to any great degree.

http://techxplore.com/news/2016-03-glasses-images-retina-mini-laser.html

So when I saw these, (again, pardon the pun), I couldn’t help but leap directly to the idea, what if, instead of projecting real stuff onto the retina, these babies could be adapted to project the content from a virtual reality, or augmented reality, environment onto the retina, while allowing the eye to continue to see the outside world?

Direct-to-retina in Star Trek

We’ve totally seen this on Star Trek. Most of the fantasies about Virtual Reality on Star Trek involved the Holodeck, where virtual worlds, objects, and characters came to life without the use of any type of goggles whatsoever.

Photo of a direct-to-retina interface from Star Trek TNGBut in the episode “The Game”, we saw the crew of the Enterprise seduced and messed with by a game that existed in a pair of laser-enabled direct-to-retina goggles not unlike those being described here.

Of course, as we watched that episode, we knew something wasn’t quite kosher. Sure, an interface like this would rock the socks off a 21st Century gamer. But the crew of the Enterprise had Holodecks. Was it not clear to them that this was a baby toy, a cheap hack of a technology for a cheap hack of a game, and if it was “going viral” (being played by everyone on the ship), was it not clear to see (again, sorry about the pun) that these things had something going on under the hood that might be nefarious?

The Game
A cheap hack, for anyone with access to a Holodeck.

Anyway, I’m not writing about this real-world prototype because I want to raise alarm bells about its potential for misuse. It’s just that it’s always fun to identify new technologies that Star Trek showed us first, and then we got to actually use, long before we could build spaceships that could travel to the stars.

As this is pretty close to a “neural” interface, stimulating the senses on a level that is not possible in nature, it also seems to foreshadow what I have described as The Fifth Industrial Revolution.

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Could glasses, that exist today and project images of actual reality directly onto the retina, eventually evolve into a vehicle for allowing VR to be experienced without shutting out the outside world? Yes, your imagination.

And, in case you haven’t seen that episode – here’s a clip.

 

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Author: Pete

Editor-in-Chief, Lead Software Developer and Artistic Director @ 3dspace.com