What’s the Definition of an Immersive Display?

I have been talking to people a lot about immersive displays lately. That’s because the next Display Summit will have this as a focus theme. Most people think of Virtual Reality when you say immersive display, but I think the definition should be broader than that.

But what should the definition be? Certainly one aspect should be field of view. If it is wide, maybe 90 to 100 degrees, that is, more immersive than looking at a display that covers a small field of view or field of vision. Therefore, VR headsets qualify as immersive displays as would a TV viewed from a short distance. Many simulators, especially flight simulators, are immersive and many visualization and CAVE systems are too. How about domed theaters and planetariums? Immersive? IMax theaters are generally considered to be immersive but suppose you sit near the screen of a more conventional cinema? Is that immersive?

Does the resolution of the screen need to be considered to be immersive? Perhaps the best way to think about resolution is in terms of pixels per degree. This can be further refined as the visual acuity of the display.  In other words is the image able to produce 20:20 or even eye-limiting acuity?  Some simulators indeed have eye-limiting acuity, but cinemas and planetariums may not have that. VR headsets are more in the 20:80 range today.  If you can see pixels, is it immersive? By that definition, most VR headsets don’t qualify. Should there by a minimum contrast spec to be immersive?  What about frame rate and latency?

Or, should immersive mean that you can’t see the outside world. VR headsets then qualify and maybe you could argue that cinemas and domed venues do, too, as does a 4K TV viewed close up in a dark room.

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What about augmented reality? Should an immersive display feature some sort of augmentation as part of the definition? AR headsets allow you to see the outside world but with additional information about what you are looking at. And if you add ambisonic sounds to this augmented world, does that push it over the line to call it an immersive display?

4D systems add movement, smells, air flow and even mist or water. That’s a more lifelike experience, but does it increase immersion? How about if a 4D system is coupled with an AR headset or VR headset?

Real life also allows interaction with objects.  Does the immersive experience include the ability to feel, touch and manipulate real or virtual objects?

Should an immersive display allow you to explore the space with walk around and look around capabilities (i.e. 6 degree of freedom)? Or, are 360º VR headsets with three Degrees of Freedom immersive – even if only 2D? Suppose it is 180º VR content? Immersive?

And let’s not forget about all the various 3D technologies out there. Is a stereoscopic 3D display immersive whatever the quality of the content and display technology? Are auto-stereoscopic display any more immersive?

Now we are entering the age of light field displays, volumetric displays and even holographic displays. While these clearly create much better 3D images, their fields of view, resolutions, frame rates and other aspects may be limited in the near term. But they certainly seem to be more immersive when you are looking at these images.

For Display Summit, I am being very loose on the immersive display definition. I am still in the process of confirming speakers and planning demos, but there will be sessions on light field displays, immersive display components, virtual reality, augmented reality, Visualization/Simulation, LED technology and video walls, dome theaters and maybe a session on volumetric capture (6 DoF).

In the word of simulation, especially flight simulators, there are various levels of simulation fidelity.  At the top is Level D which includes a full mock-up of the cockpit with actual controls and instruments (although they function differently) along with a collimated display system and high acuity database – all on top of a motion platform.  Maybe we need to think about creating a level system for VR, AR and MR systems as well.  Since there are some many elements to these systems and they can be put together in various combinations and with various levels of fidelity, perhaps a points-based system might work.  In other words, you get more points for increased fidelity for each particular design element (acuity, latency, field of view, frame rate, 2D or 3D, audio, motion, touch, etc.)  Add up the points and determine your “level”.  That just an idea, of course, so let me know your thoughts.

These are interesting display times as we are clearly moving in the direction of creating displays and environments where we won’t know what is real and what is not. That’s exciting and scary at the same time.

This post first appeared on www.displaydaily.com