Perceptual Limits of Optical See-Through Visors for Augmented Reality Guidance of Manual Tasks

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2020 Feb;67(2):411-419. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2019.2914517. Epub 2019 May 6.


Objective: The focal length of available optical see-through (OST) head-mounted displays (HMDs) is at least 2 m; therefore, during manual tasks, the user eye cannot keep in focus both the virtual and real content at the same time. Another perceptual limitation is related to the vergence-accommodation conflict, the latter being present in binocular vision only. This paper investigates the effect of incorrect focus cues on the user performance, visual comfort, and workload during the execution of augmented reality (AR)-guided manual task with one of the most advanced OST HMD, the Microsoft HoloLens.

Methods: An experimental study was designed to investigate the performance of 20 subjects in a connect-the-dots task, with and without the use of AR. The following tests were planned: AR-guided monocular and binocular, and naked-eye monocular and binocular. Each trial was analyzed to evaluate the accuracy in connecting dots. NASA Task Load Index and Likert questionnaires were used to assess the workload and the visual comfort.

Results: No statistically significant differences were found in the workload, and in the perceived comfort between the AR-guided binocular and monocular test. User performances were significantly better during the naked eye tests. No statistically significant differences in performances were found in the monocular and binocular tests. The maximum error in AR tests was 5.9 mm.

Conclusion: Even if there is a growing interest in using commercial OST HMD, for guiding high-precision manual tasks, attention should be paid to the limitations of the available technology not designed for the peripersonal space.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accommodation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Augmented Reality*
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Fixation, Ocular / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Young Adult