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New VR headset offers truly 'retina' resolution for an immense price

Varjo VR-1

The pixel wars may be over already – as far as virtual reality (VR) is concerned – with the unveiling of the VR-1 headset by a firm known as Varjo. First teased back in 2017, the company’s VR-1 headset looks similar to its competitors, yet on the inside it employs what Varjo calls a “Bionic Display” with a pixel resolution matching that of the human eye.

This Bionic Display, according to Ars Technica, uses two panels like most VR headsets but in a different orientation. A single 1,920 x 1,080, micro OLED display sits directly within the center of the headset’s field of view, which is then surrounded by a supporting 1,440 x 1,600 AMOLED panel, delivering an 87-degree field of view for the user.

Oddly enough, the 1080p display in the center actually produces a clearer image than the surrounding one, with the panel wrapping the center one effectively providing peripheral vision for the user. According to Ars Technica, this produces a bit of a “halo effect” in the picture that’s ultimately displayed, but it’s still far superior to the HTC Vive Pro and especially the Oculus Rift.

The future of VR will cost you dearly

This level of sharpness and detail is thanks to micro OLED technology, which has allowed Varjo to cram an incredibly dense 3,000 pixels per inch (ppi) into the panel. 

To put that into perspective, Apple’s sharpest Retina display yet – in the iPhone XS – sits at just 458 ppi in total.

Varjo VR-1

A VR image rendered by HTC Vive Pro (left) versus Varjo VR-1 (right).

Of course, if the iPhone XS costs a grand for just a 458 ppi display, it’s little surprise that this level of visual fidelity is going to call for an exponentially higher amount of cash. To be exact, the VR-1 is available now for $5,995 (about £4,620, AU$8,450), but will also cost users an additional $995 per year for an ongoing service license.

At this price, the VR headset is obviously intended for content creators and developers right now, but is also said to be ready for Valve’s SteamVR platform out of the box. 

While it will be some time before this holy grail of VR fidelity is within our grasp, we may start to enjoy the benefits of what’s created using these headsets much sooner.

Images Credit: Varjo