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Varjo has a new virtual reality headset that targets VR aficionados and professionals who require highly realistic 3D imagery. The Varjo Aero is cheaper than the company’s previous products, but it’s still pricey at $1,990.
For that money, customers will get a headset that has high-end visual fidelity, and seamless images across 115 degrees field of view (a wide viewing angle). And while it is design for professionals working in enterprise, Varjo expect consumers who are huge VR aficionados to become customers as well.
The new VR headset, together with Varjo’s recently announced Varjo Reality Cloud platform, marks the next step toward enabling a true-to-life metaverse for all, said Urho Konttori, founder and chief technology officer of Helsinki, Finland-based Varjo, in an interview with GamesBeat.
In contrast to the company’s prior headsets, there is no annual software subscription fee.
“We’ve heard the demand from leading-edge VR users such as aviators, creators and racing simulation enthusiasts to bring our highest-fidelity devices to everyone, not just enterprises,” said Konttori. “As a result, we are proud to bring to market Varjo Aero, the best VR headset that anyone can get. This device, together with our Reality Cloud platform, continues our mission to make a true-to-life metaverse accessible for all.”
The Varjo Reality Cloud enables someone to wear a Varjo headset and scan a room. Then other remote people can connect to the imagery in the cloud and see it as if they were in the same room with the user who did the scanning.
Varjo Aero offers an industry-leading immersive experience to both professionals and high-end VR enthusiasts alike, the company said. Images provided by Varjo shows the Aero has better resolution than the Valve Index and HP Reverb G2 headsets.
“It allows you to start cooperating and getting the benefits of the immersive environments of the metaverse very effectively,” Konttori said.
It has advanced ergonomics and significantly reduced weight compared to prior headsets. It’s the lightest headset from Varjo to date. The headset features professional-grade mini LED displays, color tuning, contrast levels, and crystal clear aspheric variable resolution lenses.
”The new Varjo Aero headset turbocharges the high-quality graphics and authentic immersion of Microsoft Flight Simulator,” said Jorg Neumann, head of Microsoft Flight Simulator at Microsoft, in a statement. “Our community of passionate flyers just unlocked access to the leading visual fidelity experience on the market. Varjo Aero and Microsoft Flight Simulator are a powerful combination for ambitious aviators everywhere.”
In addition, its built-in eye tracking powers not just interaction and analytics, but also foveated rendering that further reduces compute requirements and enables a crystal clear resolution. The lower PC hardware requirements of Varjo Aero enable more scalable deployments and various multi-user experiences, including flight and racing simulations, enterprise training scenarios, design and creative use-cases, as well as delivering immersive experiences in showrooms, museums, and virtual arcades.
“Varjo shares our mission to deliver the most precise, high-fidelity immersive experiences to enterprise markets,” said Marc Petit, general manager of the Unreal Engine at Epic Games. “Whether you’re using Unreal Engine for architectural storytelling, automotive design, or advanced training simulations, the Varjo Aero presents a generational leap in visual quality for high-end VR applications.”
Built for the supply-chain scarcity
Varjo’s other headsets required Nvidia GeForce 3080 graphics cards, but those are in short supply. So Varjon engineered the Varjo Aero to run on lower-end GeForce 2060 cards, said Konttori.
“We have seen in the market that there is some difficulty getting the highest GPUs possible,” said Konttori. “And in the corporate space, when you want to expand, you need to have affordable, easily accessible GPUs. This is enabling us to expand. We felt a need to move on to the next product.”
The headset integrates with the company’s recently launched Varjo Reality Cloud service and will fully support virtual collaboration immediately with early access to the platform’s VR teleportation software. Additional functionality, such as content streaming from the cloud, will be supported in steps when Varjo Reality Cloud becomes generally available.
“Varjo Aero uses Display Stream Compression, as part of the Nvidia VRWorks software development kit, and Nvidia GPUs to render higher quality frames in less time,” said Lisa Bell-Cabrera, director of VR business development at Nvidia, in a statement. “The metaverse will be a gamechanger for business and our everyday lives. Our work with partners like Varjo on photorealistic virtual simulations and collaboration will bring us closer to fully-fledged virtual teleportation.”
With the delivery of a lower-barrier-to-entry headset option, Varjo Aero marks Varjo’s next step in making a photorealistic metaverse accessible for all. The first customer shipments of Varjo Aero will begin by the end of 2021. The headset can be ordered starting now on Varjo’s website.
It has dual mini LED LCD displays with a resolution of 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye. It has a brightness of 150 nits and a refresh rate of 90 hertz. It has custom-made variable resolution aspheric lenses with 35 pixels per degree at peak fidelity. It has edge-to-edge clarity with no reflections and no ghost rays.
The field of view is 115 degrees horizontal and 134 degrees diagonal. The interpupillary distance is 57 millimeters to 73 millimeters. It has an audio jack and in-ear headphones with mic in-box. It weighs 487 grams while the headband weighs 230 grams.
It comes with a headset adapter and USB-C cable. It connects via DisplayPort and USB-A 3.0. For positional tracking, it uses SteamVR 2.0/1.0. It has eye tracking.
The new headset is about 300 grams lighter than the high-end Varjo XR-3 headset and so it is more comfortable. It also has twice the brightness of the prior headsets and has a higher spec in that respect. By comparison, the Varjo XR-3 sells for $5,495, and the Varjo VR-3 sells for $3,195.
“It’s very bright compared to any headset out there,” Konttori said. “When you look at the VR enthusiast space, where this is our first product available to anyone so as a consumer, you can purchase this and it is by far the best VR headset on the market for anyone to buy.”
Overall, Konttori said the company is developing a good portfolio of mixed reality and VR products.
Konttori said it’s hard to predict when the price of Varjo’s headsets will be much more affordable to consumers, but he noted that the costs will get lower over time.
“Our approach was to create a no-compromise product for visual quality, eye-tracking, variable resolution, and more,” he said. “This is a professional product and we are not in a race to the bottom.”