Varjo is taking on the Rift & Vive VR headsets


Varjo is a Finnish company that has been operating in secrecy until now, planning its domination of virtual reality headsets. Varjo has unveiled a new type of VR and AR headset code-named “20/20.” It promises a display with “human eye-resolution” quality of over 70 megapixels! To put this in perspective, the Oculus Rift & HTC Vive have a meagre 1.2 megapixels per eye.

What can Varjo do

The word “varjo” means shadow in Finnish. It claims to achieve this astonishing benchmark using “patented technology that replicates how the human eye naturally works, creating a super-high-resolution image to the users gaze direction.” Who are the geniuses that were able to create this technology? Varjo has staffed veterans from companies like Nvidia, Microsoft, Intel, Nokio and Rovio to name a few. While the resolutions puts current headsets to shame, the 100-degree field of views remains the same.

The headset also uses video see-through technology for “unparalleled AR and MR capabilities,” claims Varjo. In an early beta video, they showed rendered objects like cars, planets and free-form artwork overlaid on top of a real room, much like Microsoft’s Hololens. Information on exactly how Varjo is able to do all this is a little vague. Varjo claims to have combined a context display, focus display, optical combiner and gaze tracker into a “bionic display” for human-eye resolution in VR, AR and XR. The system has low computing requirements thanks to “foveated eye tracking.”


How’s it work

So what’s the caveat? The 70-megapixel resolution is limited to what you’re looking directly at. Everything in your periphery will render at a lower resolution. At a demo in New York City, the company showed off what its technology can do using an Oculus Rift. The team downloaded an interior environment off the Unity store and tweaked it to add crisper details and richer textures. In the preview, a card-sized rectangle was laid over the middle of the field of view to show the difference between Varjo’s tech and the standard Oculus Rift render.

We can see from the images provided from the demo that Varjo is able to achieve significantly higher resolution than the Oculus Rift or Vive. If you thought the Rift and Vive were immersive experiences, Varjo is poised to redefine our definitions of immersive VR. Varjo says its tech “pushes VR technology 10 years ahead of the current state-of-the-art.” What we don’t understand yet are what the latency will be like, what the frame rates are and where the content for such high resolution displays will come from. It shouldn’t be like when 4K TVs first arrived and there was little to no 4K content in production. Another burning question is what kind of rigs will be required to run Varjo’s tech? The Vive and Oculus require the most advance consumer-grade hardware available today, if Varjo’s is so far out, will we need to wait for computers to catch up to their requirements?

The company has promised to ship “Varjo-branded products specifically for professional users and applications starting in late Q4, 2017,” with more models to come next year.


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