At last year’s CES, Panasonic unveiled a prototype of a pretty sleek pair of VR glasses. Only a few journalists got a chance to try the prototype then, noting that they were more akin to a ‘VR viewer’ since they lacked room-scale tracking and was primarily used for watching immersive video whilst tethered to a PC. At this year’s all-digital CES 2021, Panasonic showed off a new and improved version of the device, which packs in some pretty intriguing specs alongside the new addition of optical 6DOF tracking.

Japanese publication AVWatch got a chance to go hands-on with the new headset at an invite-only reveal concurrently held in Japan—something that wasn’t possible at CES due to the ongoing pandemic.

Although there’s no onboard computing or power—it connects to either 5G Android smartphones or PCs via a USB-C cable—it appears Panasonic is actively fleshing out the sleek little headset’s specs to appeal to consumers looking for a lightweight tethered option. It’s also said to work with SteamVR, which means users could hypothetically play games and connect via social VR platforms like Rec Room or Bigscreen.

Image courtesy AVWatch

As for specs, last year’s prototype boasted ultra high definition (UHD) resolution, which means it was likely a total of 4K resolution split between two displays. AVWatch notes that this year’s model features dual 2,560 × 2,560 micro OLEDs with a pixel density 2,245ppi.

The micro OLED panels, which were developed in collaboration with Panasonic and Kopin, are said to support 120Hz as well as HDR. Much like Pico’s G3 prototype, which hasn’t been released yet, Panasonic’s aptly names ‘VR Glasses’ also feature pancake optics, which reduce the overall bulk and weight of the device.

Beyond its basic functionality, there were a few concerns about last year’s prototype, namely its inherently front-heavy design, which made it particularly easy to slip off the nose. AVWatch notes that this year’s model has better weight distribution by both strengthening the device’s arms and improving the shape of the fins to better grip to the user’s head.

Image courtesy AVWatch

Audio is another area of improvement for the prototype, which now features integrated audio built by Panasonics’ subsidiary Technics instead of the previous design’s dangling earbuds. Panasonic didn’t comment on the exact implementation, however it sounds very similar to the way Oculus provides onboard audio in Oculus Quest and Oculus Go.

The VR glasses also include both IPD (interpupilary distance) adjustment and a diopter adjustment mechanism to accommodate near-sighted users—important features to have for such a close-fitting VR headset.

Image courtesy AVWatch

There’s still no clear price or release date in sight. Granted, it’s hard to say whether VR headsets necessarily need to ship out to consumers so quickly though. Microdisplays and pancake optics tend to provide lower field of view (FOV) than dedicated PC VR headsets or standalone devices like Oculus Quest 2, which typically range at or above 100 degrees. This year’s model still doesn’t have a verified FOV spec, but if it’s anything like last year’s it will likely be somewhere around the estimated 70 degrees.

Still, Panasonic’s VR Glasses are an amazing peek at what the near future could bring. Economies of scale could one day reduce the cost of high resolution microdisplays and custom pancake VR lenses, making a tiny pair of 6DOF specs a cheap and cheerful option among a growing sea of VR tech.

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  • kontis

    What year is this? 2011?

    • Bob

      HDR seems very useful though.

    • xyzs

      There were thin, IPD custom, 6DoF, 2.6k oled screen, HDR, VR googles in 2011 ?? Pfff.
      Time to stop the RnD ungratefulness dude.

      • LeoSpic

        It’s like buying an Apple Watch that can’t tell the time.

        FOV is impractical and 6DoF is limited to two cameras.

        • silvaring

          You know that there’s a huge potential market for people to view large screen cinema style movies in a very high resolution VR headset right? There are thousands of movies throughout the last 100 years that could get a new lease of life when viewed through a high resolution display, as long as the focal distance / eye comfort and prices are sufficient.

          • LeoSpic

            Those already exist for years. Avegant Glyph, Royole Moon etc. For those markets head tracking or even 70 degree FOV is not needed, therefore 2.5K x 2.5K expensive microdisplays aren’t either.
            As all these products have shown, even when they were <300 USD, no in fact apparently there wasn't a huge market.

  • 70 degrees FoV. Nope, not for me.

    • Pulstar44

      It’s a start. Hopefully these will be commonplace one day with bigger field of view

      • It’s still cool tech. I agree. But I’m willing to put up with a heavier device to get more resolution, better optics and wider FoV. I have a Varjo VR-3 on order. I work for a non-profit organization that uses VR to teach flying to future young pilots. In order to remove negative training from our curriculum, like leaning in to see instruments, we decided to buy the VR-3. Hopefully it provides those superior visuals we are hoping for.

        • Pulstar44

          Wow sounds nice. Good luck I hope it works out.

        • dk

          r u getting anything else as a backup

          • Yes, we use a few other headsets. We have the HP Reverb G1, the Valve Index and Samsung Odyssey. We had a VRGineers Xtal for a few days but the headset was so big and heavy we had to return it. It’s a great headset for adults but for small teenage heads it was just too heavy. I can’t say enough good things about VRGineers. It’s a great company!

  • mellott124

    Pancake optics are quite impressive. The Pico ones from last CES blew my mind with their clarity. I hope to see an update on that one as well.

  • Would love to see someone try to play Rec Room with these, maybe do a Rec Royale match and see how well they do with only 70 degrees FOV 0o0

  • xyzs

    They ship it with a good quality 5g or wifi6 usb dongle and software that can connect it to SteamVR, it’s a instant purchase for me. Even if the FOV is smaller.

  • LeoSpic

    I had the opportunity to test a Huawei Glass that uses the same pancake optics and compared it with an older “LG Gear 360” which uses aspheres. Make no mistake: pancake optics don’t shrink the headset size, they only make it thinner in one axis: away from your head. And even then I think the difference was 4-6mm.

    As you increase the FOV, the type of lenses doesn’t determine the size of the headset, the panel sizes do.
    This is a microOLED panel on a silicone wafer. As always, they are very expensive. Huawei Glass used the 1600×1600 pixel trapezoidal shaped LCD (what Lynx uses).

    If you check the photo again where someone is wearing the device, it’s not that compact, even at this FOV, because it’s still fat in one axis, away from your head/

    I strongly believe Panasonic is just trying too hard for this to look like ordinary glasses, but sacrifice features for it. If they try increasing the FOV, pancake lenses or microdisplays aren’t going to help with the form factor. Panasonic is just experimenting, as they did with their fused artifact-prone Fresnel lens and 4-display high FOV headset few years ago.

    • dk

      this is around 70 fov ….huaweiglass and the pico prototype was around 90 fov ….in the 2019 OC Abrash I think was saying big fov is possible with pancake lenses
      and if done right the difference in size compared to normal setup is huge https://www.google.com/search?q=pico+g3+lite+vs+quest+2&rlz=1C1GCEA_enBG807BG807&sxsrf=ALeKk03Cbp1_lrEIJo2LbPz9ONIvh-N6Ug:1610482244214&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiEwdTwmZfuAhVNxoUKHWluAxIQ_AUoAXoECAcQAw&biw=805&bih=1056#imgrc=Rc_jHrSCs8ygnM

      • LeoSpic

        The Huawei Glass lens diameter is 33mm, measured by me. Oculus Go/Quest is 48mm. Do the math.

        • dk

          all headsets r less than what they state on their website I’m saying this design is different with smaller fov even compared to the claimed fov of the huawei and pico prototype of 90

          • LeoSpic

            My original post has been how pancake lenses don’t shrink the headset much.
            Your photo is a marketing bluff. Shrink Vive or Quest to only cover 70 degrees, shrink their LCD panels too, remove the face pads meant for blocking ambient light too and remove their positional tracking sensors and PCBs in the front and you don’t get much difference with refractive lenses.
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4cc4adb873933c1117cbfbf899fae50ef3d3be55c5d19a93420b3baa3fd1363e.jpg
            LG Gear 360 has a thinner plastic lens barrel compared to the Glass but the actual lens diameter is very similar.

            The few millimeters shaved in one axis isn’t a huge difference, especially since empty space doesn’t add weight, just visual bulkiness.

          • dk

            what r u even saying

            the panasonic is claimed 70 huawei/pico is claimed 90 quest is claimed 100 and vive pro claimed 110

            what optics and fov is LG Gear 360 and that looks 33% deeper than the huawei

            and again oculus r saying big fov is possible with pancake lenses

            https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-chief-scientist-michael-abrash-future-ar-vr-technology-oculus-connect-5/

            and facebook has patent drawings of how deep rifts would be with pancake lenses —>

            https://i.imgur.com/D9nNkjU.jpg

          • LeoSpic

            “what r u even saying”

            Exactly, you can’t comprehend simple points. A concave surface eyepiece lens facing the eye of specific diameter and eye relief can’t have higher FOV regardless of what happens before that lens element.

            A lens-to-display distance of refractive lens is determined by Lens focal length, as FOV increases, that distance decreases. This is Optics 101.

            I already commented about why Oculus is bulkier.

            But who am I trying to explain this. “wHaT aRe U eVeN sAyInG??”

          • dk

            the difference in size that pancacke lenses make is around 40% if not more

            https://imgur.com/a/f49U2eO

          • LeoSpic

            You’re ignoring my points. Also design for manufacturing isn’t as simple as lines in photoshop, nor are patent drawings accurate, ffs.

          • dk

            u r ignoring my point …if they make a rift s with pancake lenses it could be around 40% smaller at least …that’s not a small difference

            …..I don’t know what r the optics and claimed fov of the LG

            …..if u want super tiny optics the old nvidia lightfield protype had a tiny stack or the facebook demo from last year with the so called holographic optics …but they have their own issues and r not viable at the moment

          • LeoSpic

            You’re ignoring my points:

            shrink their LCD panels too, remove the face pads meant for blocking ambient light too and remove their positional tracking sensors and PCBs in the front and you don’t get much difference with refractive lenses”

            “A lens-to-display distance of refractive lens is determined by Lens focal length, as FOV increases, that distance decreases. This is Optics 101.”

            focal length of lens = display_length / (2* tan(FOV_in_radians/2))

            From this simple formula, as you decrease the size of the display panel and/or increase the FOV, the distance from lens to display panel shrinks. With Oculus the display panels are proportionally much larger than the eyepiece lens. As you shrink the display panel, like with Lynx, Glass or this, lens to display distance shrinks. As you try to increase FOV from 70 to 90 and beyond, the distance shrinks. If you remove the much more complicated larger PCB and tracking IR sensors or cameras the size shrinks. If you remove the face pad, which they did in their demonstration, the size shrinks.

            As Abrash mention as well, when you try going higher FOV, pancake lenses don’t provide much advantage, the formula I listed shows that as well. Even with low FOV, as my photo comparison shows, the difference isn’t huge.

            Do us all a favor and don’t talk about topics you don’t understand.

      • Rogue Transfer

        Actually, Facebook’s Michael Abrash said that pancake lenses could
        either give a wide FOV or a compact headset, but NOT
        both at the same time(see his quote here):
        https://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-chief-scientist-michael-abrash-future-ar-vr-technology-oculus-connect-5/

        • dk

          I linked that article below ….. I don’t know what he means by small …but even in the visualization they showed u can see the distance from the lens to the screen is much less

  • Keng Yuan Chang

    I just wish Quest to return to OLED, really need fast responding pixels for VR to work well imh.

  • Mr. Goldfinger

    70 FOV = nonstarter. The problem is that once you experience a larger FOV display, you will not want to go back to a smaller one. Most of the popular headsets out there today have larger FOVs already, and many VR users are demanding even more FOV. (sorry for saying FOV so many times).

  • Wow dude

    I wouldn’t call 70° fov virtual reality cool for the 1990s but its 2020.

    • VR5

      This disadvantage for experienced VR users might actually be an advantage for users suspectible to motion sickness. It’s basically an unchangable hardware vignette.

      If the price is acceptable, a comfortable HMD with great optics like this should be competitive with physical TVs and also enable some VR. Basically, a media viewer for the masses which is also a gateway to proper VR. Like Quest, but with more of a focus on media consumption.

      It all depends on what value proposition they can achieve.

      • LeoSpic

        We’ve had enough of “gateway VR”, they do more harm than good.
        As for media viewers, we’ve had them for a while. Avegant and Royole moon were practical, but for some reason both decided to use huge headphones and make a very portable device very bulky again.

        • VR5

          We includes people other than you, and other than those who share your opinion. The group of people who don’t use VR at all is huge, that “we” dwarves your “we” which is really just an I at this moment.

          If you don’t want it, don’t buy it. You can’t stop Panasonic from making it. And don’t pretend this isn’t better than previous efforts. We don’t have perfect VR yet, there are many problems and many solutions. No device is able to solve all problems at once so far.

          This one has a different focus than what you want. So it’s just not for you.

          • LeoSpic

            Do you have even the slightest idea how much your projecting?

            And you didn’t even respond to my point about this being being detrimental to people’s preceptions of VR.

            Are you an adult?

      • Wow dude

        These vr headset only hurt the vr market especially for new users. I tried these 70° fov headset back in 1990s and I got turned off from vr, I didn’t understand it, my first vr illusion was oculus dev kit 90° fov a decade later that’s when vr came back suddenly we were all sold, the minimum fov should be atleast 90°

        • VR5

          Whatever HMD you tried* in the 90ies sure had other (more important) shortcomings than low FoV. Stereoscopic 6dof is impressive even with low FoV. And 70° can still make for a great media viewer on the go. The real problem this device will face is price.

          *And I would be interested in hearing what you tried actually.

        • Arno van Wingerde

          Well… if it is primarily for watching movies on a “big” screen 70° FOV might work… check out what your FOV in a cinema is, if you not sitting at front row!

      • Ad

        It’s never good to have less. As for media this isn’t efficient at all. Normal people don’t waste money like that.

        • VR5

          We’ll see if and how much of an audience this will find. Oculus Go did pretty well compared to Gear VR and Rift.

      • david vincent

        Indeed, a nice form design for watching movies, with more comfort and slightly less friction than usual VR headsets.

    • victor

      agreed!

    • Ad

      I think it’s still VR, I just worry that expensive, probably uncomfortable, low quality image, low fov headsets like this will have a chilling effect on other headsets.

      • GregZone

        How does “dual 2,560 × 2,560 micro OLEDs” equate to “low quality image” ??

        • Ad

          Folded displays can have lots of other issues and I’m pretty suspect that they actually made goggles with dual 2.5K micro oleds.

    • david vincent

      70° fov would have been a huge progress for the 90s, at the time 45° fov was the norm.

    • Agree. But having tried Huawei glasses, I can tell you that having something that is like a glass and not like a shoebox is so better in term of comfort (and look)

      • Wow dude

        Ill take a pimax size headset over looks and comfort anyday

  • Ad

    How doe tracking work on this?

  • GregZone

    Dual 2,560 × 2,560 micro OLEDs, in a more comfortable to wear glasses format, looks like the ideal virtual cinema or virtual desktop solution. Can’t wait to try a pair of these on.

  • oomph

    Wow, great specs

  • I love the look, really original design

  • Lucidfeuer

    70° is obviously a no-go given 100° is already too low, but form-factor wise this is interesting especially if it still doesn’t use micro-displays. Speaking of which where the F are the VR micro-display, qualcomm and samsung boasted about 3 years ago already?