Participants were less accurate and became more tired when completing a task with the HoloLens, compared to the naked eye
With the right device, some programming, and the flick of a switch, augmented reality (AR) can change the world—or at least change what we see a few centimeters in front of our eyes. But while the industry rapidly expands and works hard to improve the AR experience, it must also overcome an important natural barrier: the way in which our eyes focus on objects.
A recent study shows that our eyes are not quite up to the task of simultaneously focusing on two separate objects—one real and one not—in close proximity to one another.
The results, published 6 May in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, suggest that accomplishing an AR-assisted task that’s close at hand (within two meters) and requires a high level of precision may not be feasible with existing technology. This could be unwelcome news for researchers attempting to design certain AR-assisted programs.
For instance, some researchers are exploring the possibility of using AR to virtually guide surgeons who must make precise incisions, or to display a virtual axis over the surface of a bone to steer realignment surgery. But if our eyes can’t focus on both virtual and real objects simultaneously (a phenomenon called “focal rivalry”), this leaves room for error.
In the new study, Sara Condino, Vincenzo Ferrari, and their colleagues at the University of Pisa explored how focal rivalry affects people’s performance when using AR to complete precision tasks. The researchers asked 20 participants to take a “connect-the-dots” AR test, where a sequence of numbered dots was visually projected using an optical see-through (OST) device mounted on participants’ heads. With this type of AR, computer-generated content is projected onto semi-transparent displays in front of the user’s eyes, and the user can still see real-world objects beyond the screen. In these experiments, the researchers used one of the most advanced OST devices available, the Microsoft HoloLens.
Image Credit: Microsoft