Cas & Chary Present: Hands-on with the Lynx R-1 Mixed Reality Headset

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Lynx is a Paris-based startup building the Lynx R-1, a standalone mixed reality headset that’s small and lightweight. The headset’s Kickstarter reached its goal 15 hours after launch and is still ongoing, having recently doubled its funding goal. You can pledge for a unit starting at $500.

Cas & Chary Present

Cas and Chary VR is a YouTube channel hosted by Netherland-based duo Casandra Vuong and Chary Keijzer who have been documenting their VR journeys since 2016. They share a curated selection of their content with extra insights for the Road to VR audience.

Since they are a startup and have never released a product before, it’s understandable to be cautious about the project. So we reached out to Lynx to ask for a demo and they invited us to come over. In a recent video, we shared our first impressions and showed footage recorded in the headset. In this article, I’ll share a summary of my impressions.

Introduction to the Lynx R-1

Lynx wants to build the world’s most open and versatile device capable of both VR and AR. Not only can you use it standalone, but you can also stream PC VR content or use it tethered with a PC. The Lynx R-1 headset houses six cameras: two B&W cameras for 6DoF positional tracking, two IR cameras for hand-tracking, and two RGB visible light cameras for the color passthrough AR mode. Aside from this, the headset also has a novel lens design that makes it possible to fit it all in a tiny package (compared to current consumer headsets).

Before we dive into my impressions, here are the headset’s full specs:

Lynx R-1 Specs
Display 1,600 × 1,600 (2.6MP) per-eye, LCD (2x)
Refresh Rate 90Hz
Lenses Four-fold catadioptric freeform prism
Field-of-view (claimed) 90° diagonal
Optical Adjustments IPD
Processor Snapdragon XR2
RAM 6GB LPDDR5
Storage 128GB (up to 1TB via microSD)
Wireless Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), Bluetooth 5.0
Connectors USB Type-C
Battery Life 3 hours
Tracking Inside-out (no external beacons)
On-board cameras 2x B&W, 2x IR, 2x RGB
Input Hand-tracking, controllers
Audio Stereo speakers, 3.5mm TRRS jack
Microphone Yes (2x)
Pass-through view Yes

When we arrived at the office, it was apparent that it was a startup. The office was relatively small but had a team of about 15 passionate people working on the Lynx R-1 headset. One half of the office had desks where the software was tested, the other half of the room was full of hardware. For example, there was a robot arm that calibrated the display, and pre-production units were assembled by hand. I loved seeing this. I imagined this must have been like when Oculus just started out.

Office Vibes

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

Before the demos, Stan Larroque, the founder, and CEO of Lynx showed us around and he told us that the demo devices were pre-production units that demonstrate basic engineering validations but not yet the experience you’d expect when you buy the headset.

Design & Comfort

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

The headset has a small form factor, a lightweight front attached to a ‘halo’ headstrap. The front can be flipped up 90-degrees quickly peeking outside the headset. The forehead holder and backside of the strap have magnetically-attached pads. To balance the front weight, the battery is placed at the back. This design works out well as the headset is one of most comfortable I’ve tried so far.

Novel Lens Design

The headset makes use of what the company calls a “four-fold catadioptric freeform prism” lens. It’s a novel design not seen in other headsets before and this is, according to Lynx, what makes it possible to pack all the components in such a small form factor. You can move these lenses separately to adjust for your IPD.

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

AR + Hand-tracking

The first thing we tried was AR passthrough, which is the primary focus of the headset. The headset is designed to be used this way without any cover on the sides so that you can see as much of the real world as possible (there is a magnetic cover for using the headset in VR mode).

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

I tried an AR color passthrough demo that showed off the hand tracking. The passthrough had a bit of latency but was low enough for me to comfortably walk around while looking at the passthrough footage. The colors weren’t 100% fine-tuned yet, so sometimes it changed in color temperature but other than that, it worked well.

The hand-tracking is powered by Ultraleap and that’s one of my favorite aspects of the headset as it is very precise and responsive, more so than hand-tracking on Oculus Quest 2. It had no trouble understanding which hand was which, even when my fingers were overlapping (which is a tough challenge for hand-tracking systems). It’s not perfect yet, but I think it’s promising.

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

Then I tried another AR app where a solar system was embedded into the real world and I could walk around it, or look at it from a closer distance. While the camera footage of the real world wasn’t as sharp as real life, the solar system looked beautifully sharp.

I was impressed by the AR functionality in combination with the hand tracking. I can imagine the possibilities this opens up for developers.

VR Mode

I’ve tried the Lynx R-1 in VR mode too which employs the ‘immersive cover’ and shows you a purely virtual world instead of passthrough AR. Lynx had a couple of self-developed VR tech demos available, one demo was a Beat Saber clone where I used my hands to slash boxes and another demo which had me casting spells with my hands.

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

In fully immersive VR mode, it took me a while to get used to the lenses as I needed more time than usual to find the sweet spot and for a couple of moments I found it, but I wasn’t able to keep it. So most of my time in the VR demos I saw something that looked like ghosting because of the lens’ four-fold design that’s corrected by software. Visuals became wobbly around the folding areas. This made it hard for me to judge the display. Strangely, this wasn’t noticeable in AR mode.

Image courtesy Cas & Chary

Asking founder Stan Larroque, he told me the lenses and display were not precisely calibrated together in some eyepieces yet, but this should be resolved once they hit production using the tooling of their manufacturer and once the software matures.

Software & Content

The Lynx R-1 is built on Android 10 and will support Unity with an SDK made in collaboration with Qualcomm and Ultraleap. Support for OpenXR is also in the pipeline. Lynx aims to open-source the SDK and make the ecosystem as open as it can. This should make it easy for developers to release games on it.

However, the software is still in its early stages. All the demos shown to me were launched via the command line as there’s no in-VR operating system yet. Lynx says that software is what they’ll be working on from now until release. It will take a few more months but once the software matures, Lynx says it will fix the issues I had during my demos.

Controllers

As for the controllers, Lynx says it will design and manufacture its own. For the tracking technology, it partnered up with FinchShift which designs controllers that can work without any cameras at all as they rely on IMUs for the tracking. Lynx will add the capability of more accurate tracking with the visible light sensors to their own controllers. This wasn’t ready yet, so I couldn’t test it.

– – — – –

While my demos weren’t all issue-free, we did get a good impression of the hardware and company. Lynx’s full transparency is great and it brought me comfort seeing how capable Lynx’s team is. They’ve also made partnerships and are collaborating closely with companies like Qualcomm and Ultraleap, which I think is a good sign. So I think the device is promising, but it is still too early to say if Lynx is on track until we see the hardware and software all come together in the shipping product.

SEE ALSO
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The software will be distributed online as soon as the first units can be sent to developers at the start of 2022. The goal is to start shipping the devices to consumers starting April 2022. If you’re interested in supporting them, check out their Kickstarter.


Disclosure: Lynx sponsored our trip and accommodation. We were not obligated to post a video.

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.


  • ViRGiN

    ahh, the channel for simps

    • silvaring

      Simps of what exactly?

  • Zantetsu

    I think it’s a bit suspicious that there were distortions in the demo. The excuse that “some displays were not calibrated” doesn’t really ring true to me — if any displays could be calibrated better, then they would have used those for the demo. This is the first preview of the headset from an independent YouTube channel, no way they weren’t showing the best that they have.

    • ViRGiN

      Typical Kickstarter. No surprises here.

    • kontis

      Weren’t these lenses originally designed specifically to make eye tracking much easier with the camera placed in the center of each lens?

      Intuitively this suggest sacrificing something in visuals for performance of the eye tracking impossible in conventional HMD.

      if they don’t have eye tracking in this then it kinda misses the point.

      • Zantetsu

        Well new tech can solve problems without necessarily sacrificing anything. A new idea can just be strictly better than an old idea, it is possible.

        The tech talk I saw said that they are already sacrificing 30% transmissivity of the lenses which means some reduced brightness. That I can handle (I think), but distortions – nope.

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  • Lhorkan

    Hmm, I’m a bit worried about the lenses. It seems to have a very small sweet spot by design, because if you’re a bit off center you’re looking at a very malformed image. Hearing the review say it wasn’t possible to enjoy the VR demos because of this is not a good sign.

    The AR being good enough to “not trip over wires” is not exactly a high bar. It didn’t feel like a very good endorsement of the tech. I’d have to try it myself, but it didn’t sound like it would be good to use in an enterprise environment.

    • silvaring

      Do you think the Arpara is using a Micro OLED display from BOE? Seems like a possibility given how few companies are making these it seems.

    • ViRGiN

      MRTV is a scam and Q2/Facebook hater, while running a public account together with his wife. That guy is trying to capitalize on vr at all costs.

      • Zantetsu

        Nothing you said is an indictment though (except for the “MRTV is a scam” part for which you provided no evidence).

        Seems like just your own personal bias.

        • ViRGiN

          HP G2 coverage MRTV is more than enough evidence.

          • metaphysician67

            ‘in conclusion, everything i like is great, and everything else is crap/a shill/ a scam/etc’ right. great reasoning there.

          • ViRGiN

            LMAO, maybe go back and watch his videos. Everything about G2 was great and close to perfection, he was the only YouTuber having it for months prior to public release, riding of the hype wave and getting that sweet affiliate link money. HP G2 became his personality, and he was unofficial brand ambassador.

            MRTV likes everything that is VR related, EVERYTHING. He even used G2 with several games, like Pavlov, and he said it’s perfect for gamers… while he couldn’t even land a shot in practice range, to this day he is not capable of PLAYING, not using any games. And he kept his elbows bent so that his hands were always in the camera range. When you rest your hands with G2, you loose tracking. He is pure propagandist.

          • metaphysician67

            and apparently so is everyone else who reviewed the G2 positively? heck VR Friend likes it. and PSVR which has awful tracking and dated resolution is still a popular headset. so obviously tracking isn’t everything. ThrillVR liked it as i remember though that was the old version and he mentioned the tracking wasn’t great as well. however as i recall the tracking has been improved in the latest iteration. and Pavlov has its own WMR-based issues with UI that are more recently solved with Windows updates.

            if MRTV was the only one who liked it and everyone else panned it i might believe in your argument holding water. but that’s not the case. it’s a well-liked headset, even in its earlier version, and for some types of gamers it works for them.

    • metaphysician67

      it has been demoed outdoors and there’s videos on that on Lynx’s channel. part of the issue is after their pivot to attract consumers they started madly working on more demos and when Cas and Chary showed, they didn’t have much actually complete in terms of these. i completely agree that as a VR headset it’s lackluster but not horrifically so. but i think the AR performance is what really attracts me. there’s nothing else coming close in that range. i like the design overall. the headstrap has a design close to the PSVR Halo approach but it can flip up, which only a few products have that ability – this is really appreciated by me as a developer who’s done it on the Quest and and the Vive before that.

      my feeling is that Stan and the team will continue being as transparent as they have been and continue to make progress on the software demos even after the KS ends. already they showed someone in Beat Saber (NathieVR) who i believe will be releasing a review soon – so it can play some SteamVR games. there is a very likely plan that Lynx will support some kind of Sidequest store access as well, though nothing is confirmed. i’ve already committed to a set of AR glasses (the Tilt 5) but if i hadn’t, i would be seriously tempted by this, and i still might get it later if the glasses don’t work for my specific needs. i have a lot more confidence they will deliver something usable than i do for Deca Gear. of course it’s a Kickstarter so it comes with all the caveats for that, and the manufacturing environment is nowhere near 100% predictable – witness FB/Meta not releasing hardware a year or more after Q2 came out – i don’t think that was entirely desired.

    • metaphysician67

      oh also, read a comment on the Arpara. according to him the 5K resolution is at 30Hz. 1920 x 1920 is at 60Hz. that’s a pretty big fail to me. or at least has drawbacks of its own kind (like being PC dependent).

      • Lhorkan

        No, 1920 x 1920 is at 90Hz. 2560×2560 (the full “5K” resolution) is at 60Hz.

        https://twitter.com/mixedrealityTV/status/1455874089294471174?s=20

        • metaphysician67

          thanks for the correction – good to know. it’s still PC dependent though, so you’ll need a top of the line GPU to run it. given the pricing being driven up by miners and chip shortages i don’t think they’re going to find a huge audience. maybe competition for Varjo Aero though which is 2-4X as much. i’ll check this out.

          • Lhorkan

            They’re also building an XR2 AIO device with the same displays and optics. https://www.arparaland.com/pages/arparaaio

          • metaphysician67

            interesting! but they’re facing the same issue as any other non FB/Meta headset maker as well, and they’re going straight for VR, not offering MR/AR. and 95 FOV is only marginally better than Lynx. i’ll definitely keep an eye out for reviews of this, though. as OpenXR becomes more the standard it’ll allow devs to make one app that should run on a lot of platforms with (hopefully) minimal effort. i’ll be curious about the controller quality and tracking but it does seem that things are getting more standardized. and they do have access to SteamVR and Viveport which is certainly better than nothing.

            i guess for me one of the things i like about Lynx is that the company behind it seems real, open, and genuine. it’s not a slick ad-driven approach. they are busting ass to make the best product they can, and they very well might fail to catch on. but folks said the same thing about Palmer Luckey resurrecting VR. to me i think they have a unique product worthy of recognition. but we’ll have to see if consumers are ready for AIO MR. i don’t expect they’ll be massively popular but they don’t need millions of sales to be successful. and if businesses want more headsets for meetings and AR collab at something like 1/2 to 1/3 the price of ML or HoloLens that’s not bad either.

  • Nothing to see here

    You can walk around with the passthrough on the Quest 2 as well. I tried it the other day without even thinking about whether it would work or not. It worked flawlessly. The Quest 2 has a feature that turns on passthrough automatically when you are out side of the safe area which kind of encourages you to walk around with passthrough enabled. That’s probably not what the devs intended but I bet a lot of people are doing it now.

    • metaphysician67

      true but the MR question is whether the Q2 can then automatically scan the items in your room, make meshes of these items and cover them with a texture which is a big draw of stuff like Magic Leap and HoloLens. that’s what Lynx is working on doing and for a fraction of the cost of those enterprise headsets. camera passthrough is not AR/MR by itself, though it is a start.

  • The headset is crippled out of the gate by those Finch controllers. Fake 6DOF through IMU’s is NOT going to be to accurate for more then a few minutes at a time. There’s no way it won’t lose correct positioning several times over a game session.

  • Korgen

    On fait venir ces 2 cruches brouteuses de gazon tandis que de vrais spécialistes francais n’ont pas été invités…

  • Zigmar

    I’m a bit suspicious of the example of undistorted image. Not sure I fully understand how this type of lens works, but isn’t the display split into four regions showing the same viewport means the effective resolution is quarter of the physical screen resolution?

  • oomph2

    One of most promising, nice ergonomics. Suggestions:
    1. should support steam VR on PC(must)
    2. should also support steam link app (via wifi) if possible to act as display
    3. should have a head band on top , I dont like to make these tight on head to stop headache.
    4. controllers should come in various types. One type should be a magic wand (as in Harry potter movies) with buttons. Other types could be 2 handed as usual.

  • frank bullitt

    I have a VR set that I bought few years ago . Actually my 3rd one . I don’t see a reason to buy new sets until resolution and fov are like doubled from where they are now . Every new set I buy has very minimal improvement that is almost not noticable , just hype .

  • dimacia

    Drift Hunters is an drift racing video game. It’s a realistic browser-based 3D car drifting simulator.

  • AnyJos