To replicate this organic function of the eye, the Varjo system actually uses two displays. The center of your vision is rendered at high resolution, while the periphery is displayed at standard VR resolution.
“Then we change projection of the high density display so that it follows your gaze,” Kontorri said. “Wherever you look at, that's where the high density displays projection is.”
Kontorri and his team visited the US earlier this week, demonstrating an early prototype of their system. Patched together from an existing Oculus Rift headset, the demo model adds a pair of high-density screens and some cleverly arranged mirrors inside the goggles. The end result, according to reports, is 70 megapixels of resolution in the center of the field of vision, compared to about 1.2 megapixels everywhere else.
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The improvement is such that users reported being able to read small signs and individual documents in VR environments — something existing virtual reality systems generally cannot handle.
The prototype demo is strictly proof-of-concept, Kontorri said. The company plans to build their own custom VR goggles — called "20/20" for now — starting this year. The final product will incorporate improved eye-tracking so that the system can better follow the user's gaze. It will also smooth out the transition zone between high-density view and standard resolution.
“We are a product-making company,” Kontorri said. “The technology is not for license, but will be available in partner devices shipping this year. The final product that we will sell will be available next year.”
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That first wave of “20/20” products is aimed squarely at the high-end professional market — architects or engineers who need high-density resolution for immersive VR-design programs. These units will likely cost thousands of dollars, but Varjo hopes to roll out less expensive consumer models down the line.
“Technology trickles down fast,” Kontorri said. “Depending on the type of consumer, I would imagine that we are talking two to three years into the future from our first product.”
Whether this new technology will take hold remains to be seen, but industry reports suggest that Varjo — Finnish for “shadow” — represents a formidable collection of talent, with former executives, engineers, and product managers from Microsoft, Nokia, and Intel.
VR companies may not be making the sales that they want, but they are getting a clearer picture of what improvements need to be made. Ironically enough, the most critical improvement is… a clearer picture.
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