Varjo announced today that cloud streaming is coming to the Reality Cloud platform announced last year. The feature has been available to select early-access partners for a few months and will become commercially available in the first half of this year.
Let’s Talk Streaming
Chances are, everyone reading this has streamed digital content like music, video, even games. Streaming – running content over an internet connection instead of off of a local device – has been a game changer in the last few years. It allows us to access more content while requiring less memory and less sophisticated (and expensive) hardware.
Reducing hardware requirements is something of a holy grail for the XR industry that typically requires head-mounted displays – and, often, head-mounted computing. As the maker of the most robust XR headsets on the market, Varjo is definitely interested in reducing the computing capacity required by its customers while providing the same jaw-dropping experiences.
This is doubly true, having recently entered the “prosumer” market with the announcement of the lighter weight and more affordable Aero. While consumer headsets are increasingly going cordless, even the Aero still requires a connection to a compatible PC. But, a little techno-wizardry can increase that list of compatible devices by decreasing the requirements.
Swiftly Moving Reality Clouds
Even before Varjo announced Aero, the company revealed plans for the Reality Cloud platform. At the time, founder and CTO, Urho Konttorin described the platform by saying that it will “allow the ultimate science-fiction dream, photo-realistic teleportation.” A virtual product showcase previewed the headset digitally rendering one user’s environment to virtually share with a remote user.
The Reality Cloud platform has been in early testing with select Varjo partners since shortly after the announcement of the project.
“In a nutshell, we are continuing now with the Varjo Reality Cloud story that started this summer,” Konttori told ARPost. “Rivian, as well as four other companies, have now been using the Varjo Reality Cloud for a couple of months and, of course, the response has been fantastic. For everyone, their experience has been beyond their expectations.”
A release shared with ARPost called the addition of streaming to Reality Cloud “progress towards the company’s vision of bringing real-life collaboration into the metaverse” by bringing the company’s “human-eye resolution” experiences on 35 Mbps bandwidth. And, according to Kontorri, the company is working on a 10 Mbps fallback with “slight performance degradation.”
Varjo, NVIDIA, and Amazon Join Forces
This is all possible through Amazon Web Services and NVIDIA GPUs and reduces the necessary connected device for the user to a “low-end gaming laptop or middle-road engineering laptop,” according to Konttori. Further, all traffic is encrypted and not even Varjo has access to the actual data.
“We have been collaborating tightly with NVIDIA for years. It has only been possible for us to make the VR-3 and Aero because of our close collaboration with NVIDIA,” said Kontorri.
Konttori also said that Varjo has been working with NVIDIA on their XR streaming project and that the Reality Cloud may one day be compatible with NVIDIA’s Omniverse platform. “We see ourselves as not competing but mutually benefiting from our experience.”
Users are able to adjust their configuration of GPUs and RAM depending on their particular needs. Lower requirements will cost less, but users can change their configuration as necessary and only be billed for the computing power that they use.
“These scalability opportunities that the cloud provides are significantly meaningful when we talk about XR deployment in the corporate world,” said Konttori. “You don’t need to pay for [GPUs] for months or years – if you need them only for this week, you can pay only for this week. That’s hugely beneficial for customers in this time of silicon frugality.”
Of course, some proprietary in-house innovations from Varjo are also making streaming on Reality Cloud possible.
“One of the key technologies in the Varjo Reality Cloud is foveated transport,” said Kontorri. “It allows us to compress the data stream from the cloud so that it is sending with the highest performance only to where you are looking.”
This is a big day, but it isn’t the release day. The company has been “almost over-optimizing,” and there are still things that they want to fine-tune before rolling out the finished product in the next few months.
“We are now at the level that we are super happy with the latency and deployments,” said Konttori. “We are not at launch time yet. It is crucial that we continue to work closely with our partners.”
Future iterations of the Reality Cloud are even intended to be available on non-Varjo headsets, potentially including the next generation of stand-alone headsets.