Varjo announced today that Boeing is spinning up a VR training program for its upcoming Starliner mission to the International Space Station in 2021. The company says that its retinal resolution headset enables virtual training scenarios—like docking to the ISS—that weren’t feasible before.

Varjo is the creator of high-end enterprise VR headsets, and the only headset in its class that offers “retina resolution,” meaning that it can resolve detail to the limit of human vision. The headsets accomplish this by using two displays per-eye: one for high detail at the center of the image, and another for an immersive field of view.

The company announced today that Boeing is using Varjo headsets for a new VR training simulations that will prepare astronauts for upcoming missions, including the company’s first crewed mission aboard its Starliner spacecraft which is set to launch and dock with the International Space Station in 2021.

This would be far from the first time that an aerospace company is using virtual reality for training. NASA was experimenting with its own VR headsets at least as far back as 1985, and has been using modern VR tech too, while HoloLens and Rift took their first trip to the ISS back in 2016.

HapTech is Aiming its Electromagnetic Haptics at Military VR Training

Boeing had been exploring VR hardware and software since 2017, but found that the limited resolution of headsets made many types of training impractical. Varjo says that its unique advantage—retina resolution—is allowing Boeing to create virtual training scenarios for situations that wouldn’t be feasible with lower resolution headsets, like the ISS docking procedure.

The key, Varjo says, is that astronauts can read instruments, displays, and buttons at a regular viewing distance with its headsets. This makes training scenarios inside the cockpit more practical.

While physical simulators are extensively used for aerospace training, virtualizing expensive physical systems—like complete cockpit replicas—not only stands to save time and money, but also allows astronauts to the training remotely as long as they have access to a headset (handy when you’re in a pandemic situation). Virtual reality training also enables more realistic training of emergency scenarios which would be impractical to recreate in a physical simulator.

Varjo says that the Starliner crew will clock hundreds of hours in Boeing’s virtual reality training program to learn procedures like launching, docking, re-entry, and landing phases ahead of the actual flight to the ISS in 2021.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

  • dk

    headset weight problem solved …all u have to do is go to space

  • Rudl Za Vedno

    I think that we’re near solving VR resolution problem. According to my sources DLSS3 will be able to take native 4K image and upscale it to 8K at minimal performance hit. RTX 3080/3090 are looking like a GPUs that will be able to deliver stable 4K/90fps without a problem, maybe even 4K/120fps depending on a game. This should allow us to get smooth gaming experience using DLSS3 in native 2x4K HMDs (=half of 8K pixels resolution). All we’ll need is devs integrating DLSS3 support into VR games.

    This is much more realistic scenario than getting eye tracking + dynamic foveated rendering support in VR games. New Pico has Tobii hardware+ dynamic rendering software plugin, but it needs to be supported individually by VR software devs individually, which is not gonna happen anytime soon. But brute force of Ampere + DLSS might give us horse-powers VR needs to get to “monitor like” resolution with large FOV.

    • brubble

      Interesting take on current tech. Ive been fence sitting on buying into VR due solely to the less than appealing “sweet spot”/”budget” clarity and FOV, god rays and the like.

      My other gripe is aside from Half Life and maybe a couple others, too many games that look like bad mobile, basement made, ps2 era “me too” demos.

      If we had what Varjo is demonstrating (at a reasonable cost) Id already be in. ;) But I suppose as per usual all will come as tech progresses.

      • Moe Curley

        I agree. I really don’t enjoy low polygon, cartoonish VR experiences at all. But I think accelerated adoption rates spurred on by improved hardware are going to warrant more investment in VR titles.

        • brubble

          True. Its just been so long and Im a picky S.O.B. who requires a certain level of refinement for the money Im spending. In other words Im an impatient old stick in the mud.

          • Moe Curley

            Right there with ya on that.

    • Moe Curley

      Man, when are they gonna release Ampere and Big NAVI? I agree this generation of GPU’s will be a big leap forward for VR.

  • Kimberle McDonald

    Varjo is the gold standard.