If you have ever tested virtual or augmented reality devices, you probably noticed two recurring problems: a relatively low resolution that affects immersion, and a lack of use cases beyond entertainment. Both problems are in fact closely intertwined. As Matti Nylander, Chief Financial Officer at Finnish start-up Varjo, explains: “Professionals have not been able to utilise immersive technologies to their full benefit due to poor visual fidelity.” Varjo tackles this issue with ‘human-eye resolution’ headsets. The founding team drew on shared expertise gained from their roles as former product leaders, responsible for the development and commercialisation of mobile devices at Nokia and Microsoft. “Our expertise has given us a head start in building next-generation VR/AR/XR products. Experience developing camera technologies and software systems, in particular, has been crucial in the creation of our XR-1 Developer Edition,” says Nylander. The company received funding under phase 2 of the SME Instrument for the EXTEND project in April 2018. It has been busy fine tuning and clearing the commercial path for its products since then. The XR-1 is one of three products proposed by Varjo, alongside VR-2 and VR-2 Pro. This mixed reality device for simulation professionals, engineers, researchers and designers boasts photorealistic visual fidelity and ultra-low latency. “The XR-1 is the first and only mixed reality device capable of enabling the real and the virtual to achieve true visual parity. It’s the point where you can no longer tell what is real and what is virtual, achieved for the first time in a professional product,” Nylander explains. “The XR-1 allows you to switch between real and virtual environments seamlessly. If you take a flight cockpit training scenario, for instance, the XR-1 is the first device allowing users to properly read instrument panels and controllers in a mixed reality environment.” Besides its resolution, the XR-1 has other selling points. It uses video pass-through to enable the creation and control of immersive extended reality (XR) experiences. Its field of view is about twice as wide as that of competitor devices based on optical see-through, and it makes good use of computer vision. “XR-1 has an active infrared (IR) system that makes it aware of its surroundings, meaning it is able to understand how far objects are from the headset. “This is essential as it enables virtual objects to realistically interact and coexist with the real world. For instance, if you put your hands in front of the headset, virtual elements linked to other objects further away can be hidden by your hands,” Nylander explains. But that’s not all: XR-1 also comes with integrated eye tracking using intelligent algorithms. This offers unmatched precision and accuracy in building gaze-based interactions.
Simulations for professional use
XR-1 is already commercially available and has attracted global commercial interest. Companies like Audi, Saab, Boeing, Airbus and Volkswagen are working closely with Varjo on new applications. Volvo Cars, for instance, has been using Varjo’s mixed reality technology to conduct design studies on future cars before they are even built. Their engineers can also drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset to test out safety systems. FlightSafety International – one of the world’s leading professional aviation training companies – also uses the XR-1 Developer Edition to provide a training solution in which a virtual scene of the world is combined with a real-life cockpit. “The Varjo XR-1 has broken through the barrier in headset resolution. Now, pilots and trainees will be able to read the instruments in the scene, which has been a major obstacle to the use of these devices in the past. It’s really a milestone event,” concludes Bob Vaughn, product manager at FlightSafety.
EXTEND, Varjo, mixed reality, extended reality, headset, human eye, high resolution