Facebook's research department is showing on its website a prototype of a "sunglasses-like" product for viewing virtual reality (VR). The researchers at Facebook Reality Labs want to find out whether their approach allows them to develop VR glasses that differ from existing VR headsets.

The researchers expect that light VR glasses that are comfortable ensure that people can spend longer in a virtual environment. The approach must also ensure that virtual reality can be used for social interaction and to increase the productivity of the wearer.

The Facebook researchers' concept has yet to overcome the necessary obstacles, they write in their paper (PDF). For example, the glasses cannot yet display the full color spectrum. Also the stereo display, which makes depth visible, resolution of the images and the weight of the glasses need to be improved.

"At the moment, our work is purely research," writes Facebook. Nevertheless, the researchers think that with their approach they have taken a step closer to developing everyday VR glasses, provided that the problems can be solved.

Facebook owns the Oculus brand, which sells VR headsets. In addition, the company is rumored to be working on glasses with augmented reality (AR). With this technology, the world is not replaced, but supplemented with virtual images. However, an AR headset would be a longer-term development.