Varjo Unveils New, Powerful Business-Level Virtual Reality Headsets

Colin McMahon
Oct 15, 2019

Finland-based head-mounted display (HMD) developer Varjo today announced its new virtual reality (VR) headsets, the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro. For those unfamiliar with the company, Varjo operates primarily in the enterprise-level VR hardware market, providing solutions for many companies in the automotive and aviation industries. Prior to this announcement, its primary piece of hardware was the VR-1, a VR headset released last April.

VR-2 and VR-2 Pro Virtual Reality Headsets

Source: Varjo

Several important factors put the VR-1 above consumer-level headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, including its human eye resolution display, which is roughly 20 times the resolution of the previously mentioned headsets. This is accomplished in part through the hardware’s eye-tracking software, which uses foveated rendering to help deliver a precise, accurate system that will follow the user’s eye movement, helping the hardware focus its processing power on only what the user is actually looking at.

Building off this, the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro feature the much of the same core technology as the VR-1, apart from obvious upgrades. According to Varjo, each new headset will have trademarked Bionic Display technology, bringing a resolution greater than 60 pixels per degree (PPD) (3,000 pixels per inch (PPI)) to a flicker-free screen that can refresh at a minimum of 60 Hz (up to 90 Hz). The screens also use OLED technology for greater color resolution and contrast. Compared to the VR-1, the new headsets provide improved peripheral vision, better color accuracy, and a new diffuser that visually eliminates the space between pixels and the resulting “screen door effect.”

Varjo vs. Vive Image Resolution

Image resolution comparison: HTC Vive Pro (left) vs. Varjo VR-2 (right)

Source: Varjo

Where the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro shine over their predecessor is in OS compatibility. While the VR-1 was constricted by only functioning with in-house Varjo software, the new models will be Steam VR compatible, allowing them to work with the entire existing library of professional and consumer Steam VR products. According to Urho Konttori, Founder, Chief Product Officer at Varjo, this will greatly expand the product library for the systems and open up new development options.

The primary difference between the VR-2 and the VR-2 Pro is hand tracking. The VR-2 Pro integrates Ultraleap software, which uses an active IR sensor system in combination with two wide-angle cameras and other LEDs. Ultraleap is the new name for the combined company formed by the May 2019 merger of Ultrahaptics and Leap Motion. The VR-2 Pro also has a longer tether cord (10 meters vs. 5) when compared to the standard VR-2.

How will the VR-2 Impact the Market?

The VR-2 will be priced at $4,995, which is $1,000 less than its predecessor, the VR-1. The VR-2 Pro will sell for $5,9,95. At those prices, they are obviously not meant for the average consumer. In that regard, InfoTrends expects no dramatic impact on the consumer VR market – despite the headsets’ compatibility with Steam VR (which has a large library of VR video games). That said, Steam VR compatibility will make the hardware more compatible for businesses that want to use a higher-end headset but cannot afford to develop exclusively for it.

Keep in mind, while the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro are technologically impressive, not every app will take full advantage of their features. Eye-tracking, for instance, depends on the software developer as well as the hardware developer. A Steam VR application for the HTC Vive (which does not support eye-tracking), will not automatically gain eye-tracking when run on the Varjo VR-2. Companies hoping to utilize the full potential of these two new headsets will still need to invest time into capturing the HMDs’ capabilities.

As an immediate reaction, InfoTrends sees the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro as important steppingstones for VR’s development as a technology. Headsets with this much power and specialized software do an excellent job of showcasing VR’s potential as a tool for product development, prototyping, training, and design. The earlier version of this headset was already a favorite of the auto industry, and we would not be surprised to see other types of manufacturers giving Varjo a look throughout 2020.

On the consumer level, the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro represent a lowering threshold. Right now, high-end VR costs too much for the average person to invest in. But, it is worth noting that the VR-2 standard edition is launching for $1,000 less than the VR-1 did, despite having more advanced technology. If prices continue to fall, high-end VR will eventually be consumer ready, although perhaps not until 2021.

Expect the VR-2 and VR-2 Pro to be ready for order processing by the end of this year.

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