Nokia And Microsoft Vets Form Startup Varjo, Aim To Make VR Right With 'Human Eye-Resolution' Headset

To create effective and convincing virtual reality experiences, be it on a mobile VR system or a full-fledged VR headset, manufacturers should make sure their device features a high-resolution screen. Otherwise, gamers would get a "screen-door" effect — where one can distinguish individual pixels — that could dampen the whole immersive aspect of VR.

Companies have been trying to make progress in that department for a long time now, but the path forward appears to be slow, especially if their own innovation depends on advances in display technology.

A new company made up of some product managers from Nokia and Microsoft wants to expedite that progress by combining existing hardware and complex software. They're just now opening up about the company they're starting up, called Varjo, which is Finnish for "shadow."

The People At Varjo

Varjo CEO Urho Konttori has a pretty stellar experience developing flagship devices, having worked on the Nokia N9 and Microsoft Lumia phones. Varjo's imaging lead, on the other hand, used to develop camera technology for both Nokia and Intel. Another one of Varjo's cofounders once worked on Nokia's imaging technology. Knowing all these, it probably won't be a shocker to learn that these individuals want to band up and create a high-end headset that can do both VR and augmented reality.

Varjo Aims To Create Human Eye Resolution For VR

So what'll make Varjo different from other heavy-hitters also cutting their teeth on the VR scene? Facebook, Google, Samsung — all these major companies have their own VR development going on. But Varjo could easily rise from the crowd with its "human eye resolution," which it claims offers 70 times the clarity of current VR headsets.

"Everything looks like Lego pieces," says Konttori, in reference to current VR resolutions. For instance, in automotive styling, Konttori claims designers can't see an entire car in real-time in VR — or at least an ample level of detail conducive for productive work. Conversations with industry heads and professionals rendered the same conclusion: VR will be useful, but the current resolution blocks the path toward that usefulness.

How Varjo's VR Machine Will Work

Varjo's machine will offer VR resolution in the center of the screen good enough to hide individual pixels. Smaller, high-density displays will span the user's field of view, with lower-resolution displays on the sides. Through this, Varjo will mimic how human processes vision, since our eyes filter out detail outside the main focus. The headset will even employ eye tracking technology and software to determine where the user is looking inside the VR scene and render that better. It's going to be high-resolution wherever you look, basically.

Konttori says Varjo has created a working prototype of the said headset, but during meetings with the press, he simply used a regular Oculus Rift and integrated it with two Full-HD Sony microdisplays to demo its marquee human eye resolution feature.

In The Verge's time with this custom Oculus Rift, it found that such a machine gave more clarity inside VR scenes, making smaller details that much more visible.

Varjo plans to ship an early version of the headset to industry partners later this year, free of charge. The company then plans to release a consumer version the following year, where it would cost around thousands.

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