As virtual reality (VR) headsets continue to achieve ever more immersive visuals along the axes of resolution, field of view, focal cues, distortion mitigation, and so on, the luminance and dynamic range of these devices falls far short of widely available consumer televisions. While work remains to be done on the display architecture side, power and weight limitations in head-mounted displays pose a challenge for designs aiming for high luminance. In this paper, we seek to gain a basic understanding of VR user preferences for display luminance values in relation to known, real-world luminances for immersive, natural scenes. To do so, we analyze the luminance characteristics of an existing high-dynamic-range (HDR) panoramic image dataset, build an HDR VR headset capable of reproducing over 20,000 nits peak luminance, and conduct a first-of-its-kind study on user brightness preferences in VR. We conclude that current commercial VR headsets do not meet user preferences for display luminance, even for indoor scenes.

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