May 29, 2019 – Varjo Technologies has today announced the company’s new XR-1 Developer Edition mixed reality headset. The XR-1 is capable of delivering photorealistic image quality with integrated eye tracking and is the culmination of two and a half years of intensive R&D. Varjo stated that with the XR-1, the dream of ‘Hard AR’ (where you can no longer tell the difference between what is real and what is virtual) “has at last been achieved in a professional product.”
The XR-1 upgrades Varjo’s human-eye resolution headset (VR-1) with a front plate featuring dual 12 mpx cameras. The core technology that makes the headset’s photo-realism possible is video pass-through. Pass-through the device uses cameras to digitize the world in real time, and then multiplexes it inside the GPU with virtual content to show a combined result to the user. The Varjo VR-1 comes with a high resolution that helps to create seamless visual blending, and the XR-1 features camera technology capable of producing high resolution with unperceivable latency (< 15 ms).
Unlike other devices that are delivering mixed reality with ghost-like, semi-transparent renderings in limited view, the XR-1 enables examining photorealistic mixed reality in a full field of view. With the XR-1 virtual objects appear as real as anything in the physical world and can themselves cast shadows or even illuminate reality, according to the company. Black objects appear truly black, opaque objects block real or virtual light, and semi-transparent objects will refract the light from the real world behind it.
Users can also switch seamlessly between mixed reality and full virtual reality modes. The depth sensors in XR-1 allow mapping real-life objects and environments for building natural occlusion. Examples of industrial applications for the device include UX design, collaboration with photorealistic 3D models, training and simulation, as well as unique research and data analytics across real and virtual environments with XR-1’s 20/20 Eye Tracker.
“XR-1 brings all the convenience of seeing your body as well as the real world around you and being able to look at your colleagues while designing a virtual object or environment,” said Urho Konttori, Chief Product Officer and Co-founder of Varjo. “The XR-1 can show mixed reality with true-to-life fidelity you can only achieve using video-pass-through. Lifelike mixed reality is quite literally impossible to achieve with optical-see-through systems like HoloLens.”
One of the closest partners working with Varjo to take advantage of the XR-1 is Volvo Cars, which is using the device to test-drive virtual car designs on the road. Volvo Cars have used XR-1 prototypes for this new workflow since the summer of 2018.
By adding virtual elements to the interior of the car, Volvo designers are able to perform design-studies of future cars before they are built. Engineers have also been test-driving a real car with the driver wearing an XR-1 headset. Adding photorealistic virtual elements or complete features to the test scenarios while driving enables UX concepts to be quickly iterated. Virtual automobiles or unexpected road hazards (for example virtual wildlife) can be added to the road for realism.
Furthermore, as of May 2019, Varjo will receive an investment by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the Swedish car maker’s venture capital fund that invests in technology start-ups.
“With Varjo XR-1, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board,” said Henrik Green, Chief Technology Officer at Volvo Cars. “Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, we can test concepts on the road immediately. This approach offers considerable potential cost savings by clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.”
Shipping of XR-1 headsets to mixed reality developers, designers and researchers is expected in the second half of 2019.
Video and Image credit: Varjo Technologies/YouTube