A realistic, beautiful display, an impressive 180-degree field of view (FOV) and game-changing, controller-free hand usage in VR. XTAL, VRgineers’ $6,000 VR headset, has so much of what we hope for in consumer VR.
XTAL VR Headset Specs
|Resolution||2560x1440 per eye|
|Included Software||Headset Configuration Utility|
Unreal Engine SDK
Unity 3D SDK
XTAL C++ Libraries for proprietary render engine integration (optional)
|Dimensions (HxWxD)||299 x 123 x 140 mm (11.8 x 4.8 x 5.5 inches)|
|Weight||770g (1.7 pounds)|
Yes, XTAL is a pricey piece of tech at $6,000. But note that XTAL, which just started shipping this month, is targeting enterprises. Think cost-efficient virtual prototyping, architecture and racecar driving. When we met with VRgineers at CES in Las Vegas this week, we saw animation for an amazing looking helicopter piloting simulation that seemed like a real trip, although it wasn’t available for demo.
XTAL is compatible with SteamVR, so you could technically use it for gaming as its compatible with SteamVR. They say optimal hardware setup varies based on what software you’re using, but for a standard setup, you’d need a PC with Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti or better graphics card. Plus, you’d have to use controllers, taking away my favorite feature of the headset.
My demo was a bit limited, comprised entirely of static, real-life photos with very limited virtual interaction. I used XTAL’s integrated hand tracking to navigate through a series of virtual environments. Without even needing to calibrate, my hands were completely usable in the virtual world. Appearing as a skeleton, I could move my arms and individual fingers and push buttons to take me through the various environments. Of course, I had to find out how well the embedded Leap Motion 2.0 hand tracking sensors could keep up. It did pretty well, acknowledging me forming fists, waving my hands back and forth and doing a thumbs-up in what felt like real-time. It couldn’t handle the Vulcan salute though.
The XTAL headset uses VRgineers’ homegrown lenses with 2560x1440 resolution in each eye for a 5K total. Unlike most consumer VR headsets, XTAL uses non-Fresnel lenses. Meanwhile, OLED displays are said to bring truer blacks, more rapid switching between colors, low latency and blur reduction. With a wide, 180-degree FOV, I could see details in my peripherals. When transported into a busy city, I saw golden streaks representing speedy cars out of the corner of my eyes.
The headset has an faux leather face cushion, which was quite soft and comfortable. XTAL weighs 1.7 pounds, 0.3 pounds more than the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive Pro, so I definitely felt the gentle weight of it on me, but it wasn’t overwhelming.
Like the upcoming HTC Vive Pro Eye announced this week, XTAL also has integrated eye tracking. However, while HTC’s headset will use eye tracking for in-application use, XTAL’s is only for setting the user’s interpupillary distance (IPD).
Will There Be a Consumer XTAL VR Headset?
You’re probably thinking, “this is cool, but will I ever be able to buy this?” Well, the XTAL headset was made for businesses. And although individual consumers can buy XTAL online, $6,000 is a lot to shell out and thousands more than any other consumer VR headset. There’d have to be some work done to make XTAL more realistic for consumer pockets and use cases, like gaming. Part of doing the latter would also have to include upping that 70Hz refresh rate to compete with the 90-Hz Rift or HTC Vive.
But there’s hope. VRgineers co-founder Martin Holečko told Tom’s Hardware during CES that the company is open to licensing their technology to someone who could build the headset for VR gaming.
Don’t expect VRgineers to make an XTAL gaming headset themselves though. “We don’t want to fight with the big guys,” Holečko said.