Prescription Lenses for VR Could Set Your Eyes Free

See the virtual world more clearly

Key Takeaways

  • Experts say prescription lenses for virtual reality headsets can make the experience sharper and more comfortable.
  • Facebook revealed details about the $80 VirtuClear Lens Inserts for the Oculus Quest 2.
  • As anyone who wears glasses knows, getting them into a VR headset can be tricky.
Close-Up Of Mobile Phone, Virtual Reality headset, and eyeglasses on wooden table
Francesco Carta fotografo / Getty Images

Custom-made prescription lenses for your virtual reality headset could make your time in VR clearer and sharper.

Facebook revealed a new web page with details about VirtuClear Lens Inserts for the Oculus Quest 2, starting at $80. Using eyeglasses with VR headsets can be a literal pain, but these special VR lenses may alleviate the problem.

"As a prescription lens wearer, a consistent point of concern when using any headset is the fit of the device," Dr. Warren Wiechmann, associate dean of clinical science education and educational technology at the University of California Irvine School of Medicine, said in an email interview. "When first putting on the device, there is the question of whether your glasses will even fit, and if they do, [there is] the question of how comfortable will my glasses under the headset be."

Focusing on Illusion

Wiechmann uses VR goggles, himself, as part of the medical education program at the school, and he’s noticed the headset may bend the frame of his glasses, thereby affecting how clear the images appear.

And since VR goggles aren’t cheap, "it is daunting to purchase a unit without knowing how well they will work with your glasses," Wiechmann pointed out. While the price of some goggles have become more affordable, "the pandemic makes trying on a unit nearly impossible, so it is still a gamble." 

"There's just less room for glasses as the form factor shrinks from something like a tissue box on your head to something like ski goggles."

Virtual reality headsets use powerful convex lenses to create the illusion that the displayed imagery is far away from the user’s eyes, DJ Smith, co-founder and chief creative officer of virtual reality company The Glimpse Group, said in an email interview. This perceived distance, often referred to as "focal distance," varies depending on which headset is being used but typically ranges from 3 to 6 feet. 

"What this means is that if a user requires glasses to see objects in real life that are about 3 to 6 feet away, then they will likely need those same glasses in the VR headset," Smith said. 

As anyone who wears glasses knows, getting them into a VR headset can be tricky. Virtual reality headsets are designed to be as small and tight-fitting to a person’s head as possible.

"Unfortunately, this often compromises a user’s ability to wear glasses within the headset. In addition, if the user is able to physically fit the glasses inside, very often the glasses will rub against the VR headset lenses and cause scratches," Smith added. "This can permanently degrade the visual fidelity of the headset. Replacement prescription lenses are a great solution because they easily fit within the headset and will completely avoid any issue with scratches."

Options Abound

If you wear prescription lenses, you have many different options for finding ones that fit your headset. VR Lens Lab and WIDMOvr also sell prescription lenses for other VR headsets, including the Valve Index and HP Reverb.

"Facebook's announcement makes sense because form factor and glasses accommodation are in conflict, and it's getting worse," Jeffrey Power, founder and CEO of VR development company Arcturus Industries, said in an email interview. "There's just less room for glasses as the form factor shrinks from something like a tissue box on your head to something like ski goggles."

man using virtual reality simulator headset at home
damircudic / Getty Images

Some headsets, like the Quest 2, require a spacer you need to insert for glasses. But using these can result in a loss of VR field of view, as your eyes are farther back from the screens. 

"It's a pretty bad user experience and means getting in and out of VR quickly is more difficult," said Powers. "Personally, I just wear contacts whenever I'm going to use VR."

Writer Romelo Lukaku said in an email interview that using VR was difficult when he wore glasses, explaining how "VR was not something I enjoyed because my vision was blurred." Then came prescription lenses. 

"But when I used prescription lenses," he said, "it was a lot easier to access VR. Now I see videos on VR without any issue."

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