VR-specific rasterization problems

The staircasing problem due to aliasing is expected to be worse for VR because current resolutions are well below the required retina display limit calculated in Section 5.4. The problem is made significantly worse by the continuously changing viewpoint due to head motion. Even as the user attempts to stare at an edge, the ``stairs'' appear to be more like an ``escalator'' because the exact choice of pixels to include in a triangle depends on subtle variations in the viewpoint. As part of our normal perceptual processes, our eyes are drawn toward this distracting motion. With stereo viewpoints, the situation is worse: The ``escalators'' from the right and left images will usually not match. As the brain attempts to fuse the two images into one coherent view, the aliasing artifacts provide a strong, moving mismatch. Reducing contrast at edges and using anti-aliasing techniques help alleviate the problem, but aliasing is likely to remain a significant problem until displays reach the required retina display density for VR.

A more serious difficulty is caused by the enhanced depth perception afforded by a VR system. Both head motions and stereo views enable users to perceive small differences in depth across surfaces. This should be a positive outcome; however, many tricks developed in computer graphics over the decades rely on the fact that people cannot perceive these differences when a virtual world is rendered onto a fixed screen that is viewed from a significant distance. The result for VR is that texture maps may look fake. For example, texture mapping a picture of a carpet onto the floor might inadvertently cause the floor to look as if it were simply painted. In the real world we would certainly be able to distinguish painted carpet from real carpet. The same problem occurs with normal mapping. A surface that might look rough in a single static image due to bump mapping could look completely flat in VR as both eyes converge onto the surface. Thus, as the quality of VR systems improves, we should expect the rendering quality requirements to increase, causing many old tricks to be modified or abandoned.

Steven M LaValle 2016-12-31