Sunday, February 9, 2014

"Your hotel room is 5.6 meters diagonal" and other VR marketing nonsense

If you are seriously interested in learning about virtual reality technologies, you might want to skip this particular post. This post is about the little marketing inventions that VR vendors use, inventions that amuse and annoy me at the same time. As such, it should not be taken too seriously.

  • "A diagonal field of view of 60 degrees". Since when did diagonal field of view become an important measure? I know that the diagonal field of view is larger than the horizontal or vertical field of view, which is probably why it is chosen, but I think humans can visualize much better horizontal or vertical fields view. For instance, if you are looking for a hotel room in the city and the hotel room says that it has a diagonal size of 5.6 meters, why is that useful? Would it be more useful to know that siad hotel room is 4 x 3 x 2.5 meters LxWxH? The diagonal field is a carry over from the television world, where you buy a 60" television, though the aspect ratio for televisions (width:height) is much more consistent than the aspect ratio for goggles. A 60" television with a 16:9 aspect ratio has a 52" horizontal and 30" vertical size (I looked it up here. If you need the largest number how about circumference? Your 60" TV just became 164" by that measure.
  • "It is like watching a 70" television from 6 feet". This may be my favorite. In an effort to illustrate how wide the image, there is the (diagonal) TV analogy? 70" from 6 feet sounds a lot but it is actually a mere 52 degrees (I looked it up here). I would have just loved to be in that marketing meeting. 70" from 6 feet does not sound that impressive? Maybe we should write 140" from 12 feet (hint: the field of view is the same). I think the cake goes here to the vendor that likened their experience to a 750" screen - though I guess the intention was to visualize a movie theater experience. Google it to find out who.
  • "We have dynamic resolution which is like the human eyes". Translation: our optics are so-so and the image outside the center is not really in focus and has quite a bit of distortion, but this is OK because humans see better in the center of the visual field relative to how they see in the peripheral vision. What happens when you turn your eye and the side of the image is now viewed by your central vision?
  • "We have a 9-axis motion tracker". So, let's see: X, Y, Z are three, Yaw, Pitch and Roll are the next three, so what's 7, 8, 9? Time travel? I'd like to think this is often more of an honest mistake than an attempt at deception. Usually, this refers to a 9-sensor motion tracker that has a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer and thus reports linear and angular acceleration as well as angular position. 
  • "Our micro-display has 4 million pixels". Usually, this is triple-counting. A third of these pixels are red, a third are blue and a third are green. This statement usually means "we have a 1280x1024 pixel display but each pixel is full color and is made of 3 sub pixels"
  • "Our goggle has 1080p resolution". This sounds a lot better than SXGA (1280x1024) resolution, but often 1080p resolution in a goggle could mean 1080p across both eyes, so 960x1080 per eye and thus fewer pixels than 1280x1024 per eye.
I was thinking for a while whether I should include "retina display" (as in "my phone as a retina display but yours does not") in this list, and decided against it. Retina display is a lovely way to trademark the benefit - high resolution that is similar to the eye's resolution - but other than scholarly discussions whether 'retina display' is indeed 'eye limiting', I don't see it as a misleading claim. It talks about the benefit much like Hertz Rental Car's GPS systems are called NeverLost to showcase what it does for you as opposed to how it does it.

One last note: my company is also guilty in some of the above sins - after all, we sell in the same market and cater to the same customers that have been trained to look for "diagonal field of view" or other not-so-important measures. 

What have I forgotten? Let me know.