Varjo, the technical engineering, and design company based out of Finland aim to become the next big innovator in VR and XR. They’ve unveiled a new VR headset for use with your PC that has gained considerable attention for delivering an incredibly clear display. Has Varjo found a way to eliminate the dreaded “screen door” effect that’s common with even the most premium VR headsets? Those who’ve tried the VR-1 have given it a resounding thumbs up but how does the VR-1 stack up against other virtual reality headsets on the market?
The Varjo Philosophy
Varjo seeks to revolutionize reality. They see the great potential VR and XR can have on how we work, connect and learn. The Varjo VR-1 wasn’t really designed for the casual VR user. They identified a need for a virtual reality experience that was immersive and detailed enough to be effective for simulations, education, and training.
Already working with industry leaders like Lockheed, Varjo is positioned to influence the landscape and in a big way. While the VR-1 is more of an opportunity for enterprise, educational institutions, and even government and law enforcement, we can hope it’s a glimpse for what’s around the corner for the rest of us. In other words, when Batman enters VR, he’s using a VR-1. Are you Batman?
At the of the center screen, VR-1’s uses 1920×1080 micro-OLED display. Folks at Varjo claim the resolution of this Bionic Display system is equal to that of the human eye. Surrounding it is a conventional 1440×1600 AMOLED display that fills out the user’s peripheral vision in the 87° field of view. When looking forward, there’s absolutely no screen door or annoying grid of pixels to distract you nor are there any jagged lines. The results are astounding and objects in VR look as detailed as they do in real life while the surrounding AMOLED display keeps the viewer in total immersion.
The potential for crystal-clear virtual reality simulations can’t be understated. Until this point, VR headsets simply weren’t capable of displaying the kind of detail needed for effective virtual training in the medical, aerospace, engineering or any field that requires a degree of precision. The VR-1 makes it possible to recreate and interact with an environment, object or simulation that’s remarkably close to real life. It becomes possible to perceive textures, minute details and more. Imagine trying to learn to fly a 747 but all the buttons and instruments were blurry? Or if you owned a factory utilizing VR for workplace training, wouldn’t you want to limit the number of lost fingers by using clear orientation materials?
The VR-1 also comes equipped with precision eye tracking and Varjo calls their technology, 20/20 Eye Tracker. This function allows the viewer to simply focus their gaze on a specific area or object for added interaction. Think of it as a fancy mouse cursor. While the eye tracking isn’t perfect, it stays relatively consistent during use and it allows for the seamless overlay of information and more with a natural flow. The Eye Tracker software also gives professionals access to tracking data for training, monitoring and marketing purposes. Those who wear glasses should be warned that they may not experience the same level of accuracy when it comes to eye tracking.
Portability VS. Clarity
The Varjo VR-1 connects to a PC with a 10 m cable comprised of optical fiber and USB Type-C combination. It also uses SteamVR base stations for position tracking. Varjo admits that while relying on base stations might be inconvenient, the overall effect is more accurate than simply using inside-out tracking. This might seem in stark contrast to recent trends in standalone headset designs, and it is. The VR-1 isn’t the kind of thing that you’ll be using to play Shooting Showdown 2 and simply will not have the portability we see in the Oculus Go or the soon to be released Oculus Quest. That’s not what this headset is made for.
Don’t let this fool you because the VR-1 is compatible with leading software tools like Unity, Unreal, Autodesk VRED, Prepar3D and more. You CAN run games on the VR-1 as it is a Steam headset, and once you’re done, skip out to save Gotham City from the clutches of evil.
The VR-1 is an absolute hog when it comes to your video card. Rendering at such high resolution means the VR-1 has twice the demands of other VR headsets. Double displays add to the weight of this headset and the embedded cooling fan places the VR-1 slightly on the heavy side at just over 900g.
Varjo’s Mixed Reality Add-on is planned for release later in 2019. Owners of the VR-1 will be able to upgrade their headsets with a new see-through front plate for XR.
High Quality at a High Price
This sort of innovation helps move VR from the living room or bedroom into a wider world and a new realm of possibilities. It really should be clear that this VR headset is not for the home user, but is targeted at the enterprise. A lofty initial cost of $6000 with a service license of $995 a year makes the VR-1 a pricer option than anything like a Rift or Vive Pro. Keep in mind that if you’re building a cutting-edge flight simulator, or workplace training station, this price is simply “walkin’ around money”.
The upcoming release of Varjo’s Mixed Reality Add-on provides an exciting opportunity for those looking to enhance their real-life environments in a more detailed way.
The stunningly high resolution found in the VR-1’s Bionic Display makes finely detailed interactions possible and that gives content creators the chance to produce an experience that can truly enhance and enrich us. This high quality does come at a high price so while the four richest Kings in Europe may have simply picked these up to play Star Trek Bridge Crew, the rest of us regular folk will need to wait.