Varjo XR-1 Is It AR Or VR?
A lot of talk has been going on lately on the advantages of using mixed technology over just augmented or virtual. But what really is mixed reality and how do you draw a dividing line between the AR and the VR of it. As alternative reality technology continues to develop and with the current batch of high-end HMD's having pass through camera systems, that dividing line starts to get thinner by the day and may totally blur-out by the morrow.
Both AR and VR have their own strengths and weakness and probably their own specific use and applications. Being able to see the real world while interacting with Virtual Reality objects gives one the optional perspective to exist in both worlds, yet being able to enclose one's self in a totally alternate reality can provide an immersive experience like no other. Current Mixed Reality headsets attempt to combine both by running special apps that do this but most of the time either mimic the AR in VR or simply switch between both depending on the user's requirements. There however is a deeper level to what can be termed as Mixed Reality or a reality that fully encompasses the AR, the VR, the Mixed and whatever reality can be considered alternate or additive to the current 3D reality we now have.
Enter the Varjo Headset XR-1. XR for Xtended Reality. At this current time, the XR-1 and other similar high-end headsets like it are breaking the alternate reality barrier as far as HMD's go. With the XR-1 HMD, moving from VR to AR and anywhere in between will look like sliding through the realities in a smooth and seamless way. Since the VR-1 uses cameras to see the real world, a combined AR/VR environment will look as realistic as it can ever be. This is because of the extremely high-visual quality of the headset which tricks the eyes into seeing the way it sees in the real 3D world like when you take of the headset and see your surrounding ones again.
To get to this stage, Varjo, a Mixed Reality development company based in Helsinki, Finland had to first create an extremely high-end VR headset which could deliver visual acuity that surpasses any other current commercially available VR headset on the market. They called it the VR-1 which delivers a visual quality that even surpasses the HTC Vive Pro Eye. Current VR headsets available in the market can go up to around 15 Pixels Per Degree. This is the value of delivered visual acuity which is the resolution of something seen with respect to the distance from it. With the HMD on, your sight can currently go up to that point (15) or a little higher. In real terms that's not so much since the human eye or sight has 60 PPD in the real world. At 15 PPD using natural sight, one is classified as legally blind since your eyes would be so blurred which would practically prevent you from seeing details, reading and writing normally or even driving a car.
To achieve 60PPD per eye, the VR-1 uses two displays per eye instead of one. With that, the headset achieves a rate of 60 PPD at 30º at the Fovia (Point of Focus) and 15 PPD (normal VR) at the Periphery with around 87º of view. For the 60 PPD, a 1400x1600 AMOLED display is used. For the 15 PPD, a 1080p Micro-OLED is used. An Optical Combiner Mirror is then used to generate the final image. Aside from that, the headset also uses gaze tracking controls and interpolation that one can even see small details (like one's fingernails) at arms length. The two displays have to be sync accurately for the HMD to work as each display has different characteristics of it's own. The effect is to have an additive result where the blending of both, adds up into one smooth visual view.
From the VR-1, Varjo went a step higher with the XR-1 headset. This is where XR as a technology starts to shine. The XR-1 works just like the VR-1 but it has added components like 2x 12 megapix 90hz cameras for pass through/tracking use, a 1/3" 1.5 pica pixel sensor and an 82"x82" viewing angle. The visual delay is about less than 15 ms photon-to-photon rate. The depth sensor system also works in conjunction with the pass-through cameras.
The XR headset combines both VR and AR into a smooth transitional rendering environment. When you put it on, you will see the room where you are courtesy of the cameras. But then you can manipulate your environment by adding VR rendered images to the reality you see, then eventually totally VR the whole surroundings should you want to do so. So you can sort of slide from AR to VR and back in less than 60 seconds. The result is amazing. Like walking into a Star Trek Holodeck with everything around changing into the battle of Gettysburg. Most developers use game engines like UNITY to create content for XR-VR mixed reality. Unity has the advantage of having a fast interaction rate (changes can be displayed swiftly in real-time) and has a lot of assets in it's store that can be available for immediate use.
With the pass through features of the XR-1, the user can tweak the environment in real-time with the headset on. This allows one to see and operate the PC where the HMD is connected to, a pretty neat trick and tool for developers to render their VR environments while working on them.
Such is the potential of the XR-1 technology headset that if such capabilities would be used in developing games in the near future, playing around in an AR, VR or Mixed environment with the kind of visual quality akin to the real world (courtesy of the headsets 60PPD capability) would be like experiencing a game so visually realistic as if you are actually, in the real world. Think of playing Pokemon Go without holding a phone or tablet and moving from location to location (like in the movie Jumper) while actually being in your living room with the XR-1 or equivalent on. Unfortunately, the headsets are targeted currently and exclusively for both professional and industrial applications as they are too expensive for gaming and home use at the moment (around 6,000.00 USD and up). Nevertheless, with continued development into making the HMD more appropriate for the home and developers signing up to branch into the games market the gaming potential is astounding but for now, we can only wish, wait and dream for that near future to come.