The startup Varjo has only 19 employees and has been around for less than a year. The company is based out of Helsinki, Finland and has talent that previously existed at places like Nokia and Microsoft. Varjo originally sought funding and received $2 million. A second round of funding is being pursued now, which will conclude in later months.
Varjo has created a headset that offers new technology that isn’t seen elsewhere. The device is currently called 20/20 and has an effective resolution of 70MP, which is a huge step up from 1.2 for the Oculus or 1 for the HoloLens.
Varjo’s founder, Urho Kontorri, explains, “If you're a designer you want to be able to see contours and reflections of light on cars. Instead it looks like Lego on current systems.”
That isn’t possible with the headgear out there now, but Varjo plans to change that. The device uses both Unreal and Unity engines for content, but doesn’t focus on games, like other virtual reality (VR) devices. Instead, Varjo plans for their system to be sold to commercial companies, at least for the short-term.
Of course, without further funding and testing of the device, there is no way to know whether this will be the next-wave of VR or another iteration of a tech device that never quite hits the mark.
Tester Rachel Metz, from MIT, explains how the headset currently works in its base iteration. “The company’s virtual-reality prototype, which it let me try out last week during a company visit to San Francisco, builds on an Oculus Rift with a high-resolution micro OLED display and an angled glass plate in front of the headset’s regular display. The plate—an optical combiner—lets Varjo merge the two different displays into one image that you see when you put on the headset.”
Kontorri said, “We basically have much more pixels in a small portion than the rest of the screen has.”
However, this is all still in the testing stage and will require research to implement fully. Metz relays that the prototype she used doesn’t even have eye tracking, instead using the Rift’s built-in tracking which uses your position and head orientation.
Emily Cooper, a research assistant professor at Dartmouth, gives her two cents on the hardware, as well.
“It’s always important to keep in mind that people’s vision isn’t perfect,” Cooper says. “That can be a benefit—foveated rendering kind of exploits that in a way. But it can kind of get in the way sometimes.”
As this device is still in the beginning stages, it’s hard to take it without a grain of salt. If the promises from the company prove true, this headgear could usurp all others and come out on top. However, it could also go the way of many before it and never reach the levels that its hype has promised. We’ll have to wait on further funding and research before we know for sure which way things will go.