February 21, 2019
Varjo introduced its VR-1 virtual reality headset priced at $5,995. The company claims the device is “the world’s only professional VR headset with human-eye resolution,” indicating that it is targeting its professional beta customers, including Airbus, Audi, architecture firm Foster + Partners, and others. Enterprise users of VR are using it for training and simulation, and need the headset to work with their design or rendering software, be it Autodesk VRed, Unreal, Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D, or others.
Wired reports that Varjo designed its headset based on the needs of these early partners. With a Series B round of $31 million, the company has grown from 12 employees to over 100. “This is something that was done with the professionals, for the professionals,” said Varjo chief marketing officer Jussi Mäkinen. “It’s not a consumer product retrofit for the professional market.”
The most important feature for these early partners was resolution. “If you can crack that, you win the professionals,” said the company CTO Urho Konttori. The original “Rift-rigged” prototype using a Sony microdisplay provided 1920 x 1080 in a three-quarters inch display, projected onto the center of an OLED display.
Now, the Varjo headset offers “two microdisplays, one embedded in each side of the headset; along with Varjo’s optical system, that helps expand that 63 pixel-per-degree ‘bionic display’ sweet spot to 31 degrees by 18,” which makes it similar to the Microsoft HoloLens’ field of view. Varjo dubs everything outside the “sweet spot” as its “peripheral display.”
Using AUO-produced 1440 x 1600 OLED panels, it “delivers a slightly higher pixel density than the Vive Pro, albeit in a slightly smaller field of view.” Konttori said that, “the overall effect … is comparable to what HP is designing in its next-generation.”
The Wired reviewer said that a series of new demos “highlights why Varjo’s bionic display might be a game changer for automakers, architects, and airlines alike,” pointing out the flight simulator, the concept car and architectural and design use cases, as well as a Finnish artist’s studio renovated by photogrammetry, “a mere two hours of collecting images followed by a 24-hour render,” making it “visually indistinguishable from really being there.”
According to Konttori, “full-flight simulators are incredibly expensive and thus relatively scarce, sometimes forcing commercial pilots to travel abroad for annual training,” making his company’s VR headset “a seductive pitch for any employer.” “We work with carriers and airplane manufacturers, and one of the carriers told us that it’s roughly two pilot-training sessions to recover the cost of the headset and PC to drive it,” he said.