StarVR is a VR headset in development by Starbreeze Studios which aims to excel in two places: field of view and resolution; presently offering a whopping 210 degree field of view and 5120×1440 resolution. The latest version of the still in-development headset adds low-persistence to keep the image sharp even during head movement, better emphasizing the impressive pixel density which makes for a nearly invisible screen door effect.

Starbreeze’s goal with StarVR is to create a premium VR headset to sell into businesses wanting to deliver a premium VR experience to customers. The company already has some of its headsets operating inside the first IMAX VR Centre, a virtual reality arcade initiative headed by IMAX. That said, the headset is still under active development, and the company is still calling the latest version a development kit.

Photo by Road to VR

The StarVR headset initially launched at E3 2015, and while the field of view was certainly impressive, there was clearly a lot of work done to make the complex optics less visible and create an image that didn’t feel distorted. Since then, the company has made major strides in visuals and form-factor, which has turned the headset into something very promising.

At VRLA 2017 last week, I got to check out the very latest version of the StarVR headset and once again experience what I previously called “field of view envy;” after using this thing, you just don’t want to go back to the binocular-like feeling of ~100 degree headsets.

Photo courtesy Starbreeze

This time, things looked even better, thanks to continued form-factor refinements, a low-persistence display, and special content that can truly take advantage of all those pixels.

Low-persistence for Sharper Virtual Views

Photo by Road to VR

Let’s start with low-persistence. This is a display technique which greatly reduces blur which is otherwise caused by pixels on the screen staying lit for the entire time from one frame to the next (called full-persistence). With low-persistence, the pixels on the display are lit for only a fraction of the frame and then made dark until the next frame is ready to display.

Now you can imagine that this might cause a strobing effect as the display lights up and then goes dark between every frame, but actually if you can do this fast enough, it’s impossible to see. In fact, every major headset available on the market today already uses low-persistence. It’s an essential technique for keeping the image in the headset sharp as users pan their head around the virtual world.

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Now that StarVR has implemented the technique, the fidelity of the image from a motion-blur standpoint comes in line with other headsets out there like the Vive and Rift. Granted, the current display is only running at 62Hz which is slightly faster than Gear VR, but slower than the 90Hz of the high-end desktop headsets, which means certain people sensitive to flicker might notice it. A major bump to the display’s refresh is in the works, but more on that another time.

Lighter Than it Looks

Photo by Road to VR

In addition to low-persistence, the form factor continues to see refinement. Gone is the bulky head-mount that was seen in the early iterations of the headset; despite the large dual displays, the headset is light enough for a simple flexible strap.

Photo by Road to VR

I only had the headset on for around 10 minutes continuously so it’s tough to say what the long-term comfort factor is like at this stage, but in my time with it I didn’t feel unreasonably encumbered by the weight.

That said, Rift, PSVR, and Vive have all shown that there’s benefits to be had from a smartly designed rigid strap system, so hopefully we’ll see that revisited on StarVR in the future.

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  • Xron

    The sad thing is, that we might see it only in arcades, atleast for now.

    • Dave

      Don’t be sad about that, anything that pushes technology forward I’ll take it. Besides when Sony introduced the first OLED TV (Sony XEL-1) in 2009 did you really think no one would catch on to the tech, a company called UDC had license on the original patents for the AMOLED displays… It all depends on how badly Oculus and HTC/Steam want the technology to move forward and if it was that revolutionary, then I’ll assume they would (pay) for it, otherwise they’ll probably come up with something similar anyway.

  • Gamevid4

    Great update but it is hard to get excited about this knowing it will not be available to the consumer.

    • random_name

      I think the important take away here is knowing that it’s possible for a higher field of view and high resolution.

      • Gamevid4

        Good point, I can’t wait until HTC Vive 2 or Rift 2 with hopefully similar specs mainly higher resolution. 1st day buy for me when it happens.

        • Dave

          I would caution that if I was you. It’s great the screen door effect appears to be reduced, but the resolution pixels per inch doesn’t seem to be much bigger than the Rift or Vive when talking about 210 degrees of view. Also if Vive or Rift 2.0 go down the path of wireless solutions that could all be shot to bits anyway. Personally I would rather they focused on resolution and field of view over anything else at this stage, for now I’m happy to keep my teather, it was good enough for Mr Anderson afterall…

          • Adrian Meredith

            yeah, i really don’t think the cable is that much of an issue compared to fov and resolution. I’ve been playing with bigscreen recently and its incredible. If the resolution was better i’d sell my screen entirely

      • kontis

        All it proves is that we still need huge form factor and giant screen to do wide FOV, just like 20 years ago, ie. nothing changed. Palmer made a 4 screen 270 deg prototype before the Oculus DK1. So what? It’s not feasible.

    • brandon9271

      It really is only a matter of time before we see higher resolution and FOV. There’s no way that “Rift CV2” or “Vive 2” wont have them. Wireless would be great but FOV, RES and better optics to eliminate “god rays” are at the top of my list. Oh and gloves!! I want my HANDS in VR!! We had power glove in the 80s so VR gloves should’ve been available yesterday!

      • kontis

        Are you sure? The widest FOV consumer headset so far is the Oculus DK1 released more than 4 years ago(!!!). So far all I notice is the degradation of FOV in the consumer space and all this hype for the comeback of microdisplays screams “even lower FOV soon”. How will the consumer space look in the next 4 years? Will 80 degree be the norm in the 2021 (but much higher res)? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

        That brute force solution (giant headset, two huge screens) that is currently the only known way to achieve super wide fov will NEVER be used by companies like Oculus, Samsung, Microsoft, HTC, LG.

  • Demongo

    They also make you look like the protagonist from Dead Space which is pretty cool

  • Antonio Vacos

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  • Oscar Tong

    I wonder what kind of graphic card I’ll need to drive this headset