For years, Varjo has made some of the best XR headsets on the planet – including true XR models that can actually go back and forth between virtual and mixed reality. The company is frequently producing things so amazing that we didn’t even know that we wanted them yet.
Through all of this, there has been one thing that we’ve always wanted from Varjo and they never put out. Until now. A consumer headset. Or, at least, a headset that you can get without having your own economy.
“We’ve heard the demand from leading-edge VR users such as aviators, creators, and racing simulation enthusiasts to bring our highest-fidelity devices to everyone, not just enterprises,” founder and CEO Urho Konttori said in a release shared with ARPost. “As a result, we are proud to bring to market Varjo Aero, the best VR headset that anyone can get.”
In the past, Varjo headsets were not only a prohibitively expensive piece of hardware, they also came with necessary subscriptions that priced them well out of the consumer market.
However, the most recent big announcement from the company is also their most universally useful. The “Reality Cloud” announced in June, allows a user to share their environment as the virtual setting for another user’s remote experience.
“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,” Kontorri said in the June 24 launch event.
The Aero headset announced today is targeted at “professionals and leading-edge VR users.” Coming in at $1,990 (and with no necessary subscriptions), it’s still $600 more than the VIVE Focus 3. You can look at it that way or you can look at it as being $2,200 less than Varjo’s VR-3 headset. Either way, you’ve got to see what’s under the hood.
Dual mini-LED displays and variable resolution aspheric lenses offer 35-pixel-per-degree (PPD) resolution on a 115° horizontal FOV with a 90 Hz refresh rate. The headset also comes with built-in eye-tracking for interaction and analytics as well as foveated rendering. Foveated rendering means that the experiences are more immersive, but it also saves compute power.
All of this comes in a 717g (around 1.58lb) headset, including the strap and counterweight. The headset itself is supported by a 3-point band, active cooling, and replaceable polyurethane face cushions.
The Aero is a tethered headset (USB-C / USB-A 3.0) but the team worked to reduce processor requirements. On board, the headset brings 8GB of memory, 2GB of storage, and runs Windows 10.
Aero fits an industry trend, but it might not be the trend you’re thinking of. Varjo releasing Aero is not an answer to VIVE releasing Flow last week. On the surface, they’re both lighter-weight and lower-price offerings by companies known for heavy hitters. However, Aero (in addition to scratching a long-standing market itch) seems to be all about Reality Cloud.
“This device, together with our Reality Cloud platform, continues our mission to make a true-to-life metaverse accessible for all,” Konttori said.
In a major way, the company’s last big hardware releases were also gearing up for the then-unannounced Reality Cloud – something that I didn’t know when I questioned Varjo’s choice to release the headsets when they did. Aero’s announcement now is more likely to position it within an internal metaverse strategy than to compete with VIVE or anyone else.
The Varjo Aero is available for order now with units expected to ship late this year. In the end, Aero is still more than most people need, priced at more than most people want to pay. But Varjo is playing its own game by its own rules and we love it.
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