Varjo Tempts Pros With $7,000 VR-1 Headset

(Image credit: Varjo)

Some companies are trying to popularize VR by making cheaper headsets that don't rely on powerful systems to function. Varjo is heading in the opposite direction with the VR-1, which promises "human eye resolution" displays in exchange for a mere $5,995 / €5,995, plus a mandatory "Customer Success License" software and customer care service that runs $995 / €995 per year.

In case that price tag didn't make that apparent, note that the VR-1 is for professionals in areas such as  such as architecture, engineering, design and construction, not enthusiasts. The headset was "designed for use in complex industries that demand the highest visual fidelity," which is why it also features "the world's most advanced integrated eye-tracking technology."

Those claims are backed by trademarked technologies like the Bionic Display and "20/20 Eye Tracker." The former works by combining two displays, one with a high 60 pixel density (20 times denser than any consumer VR headset) in the central 20 degrees of view and one with fewer pixels in the periphery, to offer high resolutions where they matter the most. Its field of view (FOV) is 87 degrees, and it weighs 605g (1.3 pounds). 

The Bionic Display uses a combination of 1920x1080 low persistence micro-OLED and 1400x1600 low persistence AMOLED displays. It also features varying refresh rates--60Hz at the center and 90Hz outside--as well as a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, backed by individually calibrated colors to enhance image quality.

Varjo claims the Bionic Display offers the equivalent to 20/20 vision--hence the 20/20 Eye Tracker. The company said its eye tracking works by "reflecting images onto the eye and tracking them algorithmically" so it can offer sub-degree accuracy. It's also supposed to be quick to accommodate a variety of uses.

The VR-1 also features an interchangeable front plate, replacable cushions and an adjustable headband, among other items of comfort (businesses probably wouldn't be happy if none of their employees wanted to wear the $6,000 headsets they just bought). Otherwise, it looks pretty much like your typical consumer headset.

All of that hardware is backed up with support for Unreal Engine, Unity, Autodesk VRED and other professional VR software tools. That support is important--companies probably wouldn't be enthused to change their entire workflows because they want to experiment with a headset like the VR-1. The software has to come first.

Before you gawk at the VR-1's price tag, note that Varjo isn't the only company going teasing the professional VR market with hefty price tags. We went hands-on with the XTAL by VRgineers in January, and it too is a $6,000 headset. And expanding to augmented reality (AR) for a moment, Microsoft markets its HoloLens to businesses and dissuades consumer purchases with its $3,000 price for its development kit.

But the VR-1's most well-known competition is likely the HTC Vive Pro. Varjo even went as far to put a side-by-side image comparison on its website, showing what they say is an image of the inside of an Audi car taken with HTC's professional headset versus one taken with a VR-1 prototype. Of course, the latter's image appears much clear. The Vive Pro has 1440x1660 per-eye resolution, so has lesser resolution in one display than the VR-1, and a 90Hz refresh rate but a greater 110-degree FOV. 

Speaking of AR, Varjo plans to sell a Varjo Mixed Reality add-on sometime in 2019, according to Road to VR. The device is said to be a passthrough for the VR-1 that will allow it to convey information about the wearer's surroundings directly to that Bionic Display on their faces.

You can learn more about the VR-1 on Varjo's website.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.