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I am standing in a virtual living room rendered via Unity. Except I am seeing things I never have before in VR. There is a virtual television on the wall to my left displaying a 4K video of a city. The floor, the couch pillows, the clothes hanging on a rack to my left, are shown in such extreme detail that I am actually seeing a life-like world. It’s a glimpse of VR’s future.
“We believe that by chasing for the human-eye resolution as fast as possible, it jump starts everyone so they can work toward the end game of VR and AR,” said Urho Konttori, founder and CEO of Varjo.
Varjo is a startup of 19 employees that is only 10 months old based in Helsinki, Finland. The talent comes from the likes of Microsoft and Nokia. This work they have done comes from their original $ 2M funding, with a second round of funding being pursued currently.
My experience in that Unity-based living room and other demos, using what Varjo is calling the “20/20” prototype, shows that they are working in the right direction.
They retrofitted an Oculus Rift with an extra layer of lenses inside the unit. An OLED microdisplay projects an image onto a glass plate over the Oculus lenses. That center piece is said to have 70 times the resolution of the Rift’s image.
Below is a comparison.
“The comparison is apples to apples, taken through the same sense with the same SLR. It’s a world of difference,” said Konttori. “From our point of view, looking at what professionals need from VR, you need human-eye resolution.”
This prototype is a proof-of-concept demo to be sure: the size of the ultra resolution section is on the small side, about a small fraction of the real estate of the entire VR picture (see my approximate illustration of what it felt like below). The edges are a bit jittery in the transition from one image to the other, because the microdisplay has persistence versus the Rift’s low-persistence display.
But, even with that limitation, the demos give you a sense of what VR and AR at such crazy resolutions would be like. A virtual Windows 7 desktop had file explorer open, a 4K trailer to Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and AutoCAD. Whatever was centered in my view was astonishingly detailed.
A video of a prototype back in Finland showed how this tech can work with AR. Using video see-through, a person could have multiple “displays” while they work in the office, at home, or on an airplane. Another example demo from video shows someone manipulating what looks like a model of a home floating in front of them, moving furniture around, for example. Then they click a spot and the virtual home surrounds them at human scale. It looks like you are standing in a VR house that is as detailed as any that could be in a 4K video game.
Varjo wants to address the limitations of current tech.
“The problem with the VR and AR of today […] UploadVR