In a virtual showcase event today, June 24, Varjo executives announced the “Reality Cloud.” This platform, going into Alpha release with select partners will allow collaboration like nothing we’ve seen before.
Introducing Reality Cloud
“For the past five years, Varjo has been on a journey to redefine reality,” CEO Timo Toikkanen said in the video. “The next step for Varjo is to harness the infinite computing power of the cloud to enable both capturing and sharing the entire physical reality around us in real time.”
The idea is to use their unbeatable hardware and software to digitize the physical world around a user – including people – in real time. This digital/physical environment can then be shared with remote users who can “enter” the scene on their own headsets. In addition to sharing the environment, on-site users can see remote users as though in their own space.
“Varjo Reality Cloud is our platform that will allow the ultimate science fiction dream – photo-realistic teleportation – to come true,” said CTO Urho Konttori. “What this means, in practice, is true virtual teleportation – sharing your reality, your environment, with other people in real time so that others can experience your world.”
The Tech That Brought Us Here
In addition to top-of-the-line hardware, Reality Cloud is made possible by advances in software including eye-tracking. Varjo pioneered foveated rendering, which increases display performance in the area that a user is looking at. Their new “foveated transport algorithm,” predicts where an eye will go next.
This isn’t just a parlor trick. Allocating display resources is one of the many tools that Varjo is using to make the streaming of VR content to wireless devices possible, let alone practical.
“There’s not an infinite amount of bandwidth available, even with 5G,” Konttori told ARPost. “That led us to start looking at how we would be able to satisfy the data requirements of our present and future devices.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Varjo “started working on a completely radical compression technology.” Between this approach and developments in cloud computing and hardware capabilities, the Reality Cloud uses streaming data rates lower than Netflix.
How Long Must We Wait?
The Reality Cloud is currently in Alpha release for select users of the Varjo VR3 and XR3 headsets. However, the goal is to eventually make the platform available for other headsets as well as desktop and mobile devices, both as a service and as an open API. As a reminder, in April, Varjo announced that they were in full compliance with the Open XR 1.0 Standard.
“Offering a unified reality for developers is an important step on Varjo’s journey in bringing immersive technology to every workplace – and eventually revolutionizing computing for all,” Konttori said in an April blog post.
In the past, Varjo has tried to stick to quarter or half-year alpha and beta stages. While Konttori said that this is the goal for the Reality Cloud, he also said that the company is more concerned with perfecting the platform before release than they are with meeting calendar deadlines.
Other Varjo Announcements
Varjo also announced that it has acquired Norwegian remote collaboration and 3D modeling company Dimension10 to help make Reality Cloud possible.
“We’ve been fans of them for the longest time and this opportunity presented itself for us to join forces,” Toikkanen said in a remote interview with ARPost.
Further, Lincoln Wallen will be joining the Varjo board of directors. Wallen is currently the CTO at Improbable, a company specializing in multiplayer experiences, and has previously been at DreamWorks and Electronic Arts.
These acquisitions and expansions are crucial because Reality Cloud isn’t just Varjo’s first major software offering. It also positions them as a metaverse player in addition to a hardware provider.
“We are building a metaverse which is standing on the shoulder of the physical world,” Konttori told ARPost.
While the price of Varjo headsets makes them strictly enterprise offering, the metaverse knows no single use case.
“It would be very artificial to limit this to a work context,” Toikkanen told ARPost. “We see a broader market out there.”
Room in the Market
There are some other players that try to offer what Varjo is promising with Reality Cloud.
Avatour brings remote users into an environment, but interactivity is limited. Spatial brings virtual users into a physical space and even offers some of the real-time environment editing that Reality Cloud promises, but lacks Varjo’s digital fidelity. The Mesh platform that Microsoft announced at Ignite might be the closest contender but we still don’t know much about it.
A Lot to Look Forward To
The first users will step into the Varjo metaverse very soon. The platform will likely see its first expansion later this year. When it will jump hardware and become more available is still unclear. But, in a fast-moving industry, Varjo is a fast-moving player and we have a lot to look forward to.