New Startup Promises VR Headsets with 'Human Eye-Resolution'

New Startup Promises VR Headsets with 'Human Eye-Resolution'

Helsinki-based company Varjo Technologies has developed a virtual reality headset with screen resolution that is up to 17 times better than existing products on the market, such as the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

Varjo is a 19-person startup led by a number of former Nokia and Microsoft employees. Its device, which it’s calling “20/20,” will reportedly use eye tracking software to better render where you’re looking inside a virtual scene. Urho Konttori, the CEO and co-founder of Varjo, says it will use “patented technology that replicates how the human eye naturally works, creating a super-high-resolution image to the users gaze direction."

Headsets, like the ones mentioned above, offer consumers cost-effective, immersive VR experiences through their smartphones. But the biggest restraint to widespread adoption of these virtual reality systems is poor screen resolution. Varjo claims to have a system capable of remedying this.

So how exactly will this work? The technology attempts to copy the human eye with a combination of two display systems. A small HD display will offer high resolution for a small section of the image, while a regular display will render the rest of the scene in a much lower resolution. An optical combiner lets Varjo merge the two different displays into one image.

The device will use eye tracking software to determine where users are looking, and then display that part in high-resolution. The technique is known as foveated rendering and works exactly like the fovea, which is located at the center of the macula lutea of our retina. Essentially, the technology will show us the highest-resolution images at the point where our eye is focused, and lower-resolution images in our periphery.

"Varjo's patented display innovation pushes VR technology 10 years ahead of the current state of-the-art, where people can experience unprecedented resolution of VR and AR content limited only by the perception of the human eye itself," said Konttori. "This technology jump-starts the immersive computing age overnight – VR is no longer a curiosity, but now can be a professional tool for all industries."

Konttori said the company has a working prototype, but he didn’t bring it with him to the United States. However, he did reveal that the company plans  to release an early version of the headset to industry partners for free later this year. A full consumer launch is expected in 2018 and the headset will cost “less than $10,000,” according to the company.

Varjo believe the product could be used in the architecture, real estate, 3D product design, simulator training, and immersive entertainment industries.

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