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Oculus reveals Crystal Cove prototype virtual reality headset with intriguing OLED display

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oculus crystal cove stock press 720
oculus crystal cove stock press 720

Oculus just revealed its latest step towards consumer virtual reality: the Crystal Cove. It's a new prototype of the company's Oculus Rift virtual reality headgear, and it improves the experience in several key ways. As we reported last month, it attempts to do away with the motion blur that made some people sick. Today, the company's revealing how it managed to do that: a intriguing new OLED display.

Previous Oculus Rift prototypes used traditional LCD screens, and OLED technology inherently has lower latency since it doesn't need to switch pixels quite the same way. That means images respond more quickly to your movements, and the new Crystal Cove prototype also tracks those movements better thanks to a full positional tracking system. The Crystal Cove uses a camera to track over two dozen infrared dots placed all over the headset. With the new tracking system, you can lean and crouch because the system knows where your head is in 3D space, which can also help reduce motion sickness by accurately reflecting motions that previously weren't detected.

Low persistence of vision could be key

But that's not the most interesting technique that Oculus is using in the new Rift. The special OLED screen in the Crystal Cove prototype is also what Oculus founder Palmer Luckey calls a low-persistence-of-vision display. Persistence of vision is the fundamental concept that lets us watch, say, movies filmed at only 24 frames per second. Even though the images flash by one by one, our minds fill in the blanks — we see (relatively) smooth motion. Here, Oculus is turning the idea on its head: the new Rift intentionally reduces the amount of information the player sees, so that their brain can smooth out virtual reality in a similar fashion.

"What we're doing is we're taking the image and flashing it on when it's correct, and only keeping that on for a fraction of a millisecond and then turning it off and then going black until the next pulse," Luckey tells Polygon.

"Low persistence is really, really important. It's probably the most important thing we're showing. It doesn't sound really exciting... but it's incredible the difference low persistence makes. You really have to see it. It's mind-blowing."

We just saw the Crystal Cove for ourselves. Read all about it here.