VR is already at a point where it can render some impressive 3D landscapes. But it is awful at rendering text. This renders things like VR Desktop as basically unusable.

Question: Why is text resolution so bad in VR? I'm talking about from a technical standpoint?

EDIT: Here is a quote from an article about text resolution in VR:

“Text is tough in VR. It’s hard to read, given the resolution of today’s HMDs and it’s hard to write, since you’re typically blind in a headset and it’s annoying to be tied to a keyboard at a desk when you’d rather walk and move around in VR. I tolerate these problems with RiftSketch by making the text in the editor extremely large. I can only see 20 lines of code at a time in VR whereas my physical desktop has a 4K monitor where I’m usually looking at 140 lines of code per file with several files open side-by-side.”

My question is why, from a technical perspective, is this the case? If we can render i.e. Shrek in VR, why can't we render clear text?

  • \$\begingroup\$ What you mean by bad? Distorted? Shrinked? Not displaying? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 2, 2016 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ It is blurry and unreadable. You cannot read text unless it is blown up and in front of your face (in VR). \$\endgroup\$
    – George
    Aug 2, 2016 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tarik, I added some details to the question above. \$\endgroup\$
    – George
    Aug 2, 2016 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


Because the resolution is "bad".

I'm taking the Vive numbers and some numbers that are very rough estimates, they're pretty much identical to the Oculus Rift.

Each eye has a screen with a resolution of 1080x1200 and takes up more than a you can see without moving your eye. Your regular run of the mill monitor is 1920x1080 and takes up... let's say 2 thirds of your vision.

This leaves it with an effective resolution of 2880x1620, which is already quite a bit better.

Besides that, text rendering on a VR headset is typically done by rendering the text to a picture and then projecting that picture in 3D. This negates some of the advantages regular text has, namely the possibility to do anti aliasing on a known background and subpixel rendering.

It also adds the downside that you have to go through sampling again, which can introduce additional error.

Contrast this to rendering a model or a terrain. They have very little relevant detail. Just count all the little lines and curves in this text! Way less than a regular model and they are actually all important while a model just has to look close enough.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Practically, do you think this is then mostly an overall resolution issue? That is, is the only way, in all practicality, to fix this problem to make the overall resolution better, or do you think with enough sweat and cleverness and manpower (lol), one could take an existing headset and make text significantly more readable with existing technology? \$\endgroup\$
    – George
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ For example: could one somehow make it so that instead of projecting text from a picture, one could still somehow "do anti aliasing on a known background and subpixel rendering"? Or somehow avoid re-sampling? \$\endgroup\$
    – George
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not that smart but probably. The lenses make subpixel rendering really hard I'd imagine. VR hasn't been around for that long so who knows what clever things we can figure out in time! \$\endgroup\$
    – Elva
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @George also now I wanna see if I can modify this for use in VR stackoverflow.com/questions/5262951/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Elva
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I seem to remember John Carmack tweeting about work they were doing on text rendering. I'm sure something clever can be done, but resolution is surely the fundamental issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – PeterT
    Aug 2, 2016 at 21:22

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