Heads-On/Analysis: Varjo Launches the Best VR System for Professional Use Cases
February 19, 2019
Varjo is a Finnish startup targeting professional VR use cases where human eye resolution is needed: industrial/architectural design, detailed imaging, and high-end training applications. We are still early in the AR/VR development cycle, but products like the VR-1 are needed to unlock use cases that consumer-grade VR systems cannot support. Varjo’s VR-1 is now on sale for $5,999 plus $1,000 in annual software license fees.
I got heads on with the production version and came away largely impressed with the company’s execution. I first met with Varjo nearly two years ago when it was a bunch of promises, a hand-wired prototype, and a postage stamp-sized sensor. The production version delivers on most of the promises. The center of your vision is crystal clear, the rest of your FOV (field of view) is still reasonably resolved, and it pulls off this magic with superior eye tracking. There is room for improvement – the sharp central FOV could be bigger, there is a Matrix-like shimmer when you look off center, and I experienced some eyestrain jumping from demo to demo.
The potential market for pro VR is narrow but deep – Varjo already has customers in automotive, aeronautics, and health. Price is not an issue; the design software many professionals use has a higher annual cost than the VR-1. In fact, Varjo’s own subscription fee appears to partly be aimed at discouraging individuals from buying one. If a programmer wanted to develop games with it, it would work, as it supports Unity and Unreal engines.
HTC, Microsoft, and Acer/StarVR are also targeting some of the same enterprise use cases, but where photorealistic VR is required, there is nothing else like the Varjo on the market. Varjo is also promising an upcoming snap-on AR module, which would theoretically make Varjo a direct competitor to Microsoft, Vuzix, and Magic Leap, but even if Varjo pulls off the impossible again, it will be in a completely different price category – and it will remain tethered by a fiber optic cable array back to a PC.
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