Varjo, the Finnish manufacturer of ultra-high-end virtual reality and mixed reality headsets for the corporate market, which boast photorealistic levels of resolution, has announced a brand new VR headset intended for the consumer/prosumer market: the Varjo Aero.
This new PCVR headset (selling for US$1,990, which is just the price for the headset alone, but you can use Valve Index Knuckles controllers and base stations with it) has the following key features:
- Dual Mini LED LCD lenses with a resolution of 2880 x 2720 pixels per eye at 90Hz (which completely removes the screen-door effect seen in lower-resolution VR headsets);
- Automatic interpupillary distance (IPD) adjustment (i.e. you just put it on and the device automatically adjusts to your eyes), plus ultra-fast, built-in eye-tracking at 200 Hz;
- Weighing in at 617 grams, offering 4 separate adjustment dials for a custom fit, with active cooling and optimized ergonomics for long-duration usage; and
- Unlike Varjo’s corporate line of VR/AR/XR headsets, there is no annual software subscription fee.
However, there are also a few drawbacks to the Varjo Aero: there is no built-in audio and, even worse, no built-in microphone! (There is, of couse, an audio jack to attach an external set of headphones.) Also, as Jamie Feltham notes in his review of the product on UploadVR:
So let’s start with what has been my biggest issue in my time testing the headset. Yes the Aero is impeccably clear and I’ll touch on that in a second, but over the past four weeks using the headset I’ve noticed significant peripheral distortion when rotating my head. As I look away from a virtual object or surface, it appears to warp as if not entirely solid. Only the very center of my view looks stable. It’s incredibly distracting (which, ironically, is only enhanced by the clarity of the display).
In pretty much all the apps I’ve tested, including big-budget titles like Half-Life: Alyx and The Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners and indie projects like Gorn and Sweet Surrender, it’s been a noticeable issue.
Crucially, Varjo itself knows about this. I’ve been on multiple troubleshooting calls with the company over the past few weeks to talk about it and have been repeatedly assured that this is a software issue it’s aiming to fix with subsequent updates. In fact, the company says it expects to have its Base software fully ready for the Aero in December, which is when it also expects the first units ordered today to arrive.
And, of course, the YouTube VR vloggers were all over this new release! I have attached review videos by Thrillseeker, Cas and Chary, and Sebastian Ang of MRTV below (if you only have time to watch one, watch Thrillseeker’s; his mind is just blown by the Varjo Aero, although he also notes the visual distortion Jamie mentioned, and says that the company assured him that they would fix the issue before shipping product):
As Thrillseeker says in his review video, improvements to virtual reality hardware and software are accelerating, and slowly but surely filtering down to the consumer market! It’s an exciting time to be in VR!
I leave you with another video showing how the Varjo Aero VR headset is being used in aircraft pilot training: