Pimax, the company aiming to deliver three flavors of its high field of view (FOV) headset via their Kickstarter, have recently blasted past the $2 million funding mark. With only a week left in the crowdfunding campaign and now more than $2.45 million to their name, the company has reached arguably a more important milestone: they’ve surpassed the original Oculus Rift Kickstarter, becoming the top funded VR headset campaign in existence.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t mean as much as you think it would.

Pimax’s recent passing of Oculus’ Kickstarter, which tallied a total of $2,437,429 with 9522 backers at the time of its September 2012 conclusion, could mean many great things for the China-based company. Oculus of course went on to become one of the major players in the burgeoning industry, and as Pimax further normalizes its brand with Western markets after having already successfully delivered on its “4K” VR headset, it’s clear the company has intentions of becoming the next big player in VR too. Like every large project though, the devil is invariably always in the details. Further funding, aggressively committing to R&D, and attracting internal talent—all of these things can make or break a young startup as it attempts to offer something truly bigger than itself.

Pimax accessories, image courtesy Pimax

Even though Pimax technically surpassed Oculus’ Kickstarter, historical context matters. Firstly, a Kickstarter is a good litmus test to gauge the public’s general interest, but when it comes to shipping something as complex as a VR headset, it’s only just a starting point. In Oculus’ case, that successful litmus test gave them the momentum to raise a $16 million Series A in 2013 and a $75 million Series B later that year. Followed by their $2 billion Facebook buyout in 2014, this garnered the young company access to effectively unlimited funds. (It also doesn’t hurt having John Carmack as your CTO, who joined the company early on as an adviser.)

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As with the Oculus Rift DK1, the money Pimax has raised through Kickstarter is likely only going to be enough for them to ship a preliminary product, and won’t provide the funds for the vast support mechanisms and level of R&D that Oculus had on its march towards DK2 and eventually the consumer Rift. The question remains whether Pimax can attract more future investors as it rides the momentum of its Kickstarter—providing their headsets deliver a rock-solid experience in the hands of backers to begin with.

To Pimax’s credit, it doesn’t have the burden of developing a tracking standard, which is provided by Valve’s freely licensed Lighthouse positional tracking, or the underlying support software thanks to Valve’s OpenVR API. This is offset somewhat by a level of expectation inherent to a consumer product, and not a developer kit like the DK1 Rift. It wasn’t until the consumer Rift came along that Oculus started shipping replacement parts and servicing units, as the dev kits were sold without a warranty or the option of purchasing something as simple as new lenses—an incredible cost saving measure that let them sell headsets without the sort of obligations that come part and parcel when selling consumer hardware.

image courtesy Pimax

As Pimax surpasses Oculus’ original Kickstarter, it only really signifies consumer interest in the ‘next generation’ of VR. Although Pimax calls their headsets “8K” and “5K”, they actually respectively feature dual 3,840 × 2,160 LCD panels and dual 2,560 × 1,440 LCD panels. The standard “8K” headset also actually upscales a 4K signal to 8K, hence the “8K” in quotation marks. An “8K” X is also on offer that removes the upscaler, and making it capable of accept 8K input, but the headset’s effective per-eye 4K resolution remains the same. Questionable marketing aside, these display resolutions are quite a bit higher than Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, which both offer dual 1080 × 1200 OLED displays.

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The real fanfare though comes from the headsets’ reported 200 degree FOV, and ability to hook into Valve’s SteamVR tracking solution, making it both the first consumer-grade high FOV headset and the first publicly available headset outside of HTC Vive to use Valve’s room-scale positioning tech.

New Vive base stations built with Valve’s SteamVR tech

Norman Chan and Jeremy Williams from Tested got a chance to go hands-on with version 2 “8K” prototype, saying that the wide FOV was impressive, although there was some noticeable in-software stretching of the game they demoed, Fruit Ninja (2016), that made things less-than immersive. According to Tested, resolution in the headset is noticeably higher and the screen door effect was present, although minimal, with Williams exclaiming “if I’m watching a movie, this is the headset I want.”

As Pimax stands on the shoulders of giants with a valid product in hand, it remains to be seen if they can craft the obvious consumer interest into a business that will make them leaders in the field over time. Either way, we’ll be following their next steps closely to see if Pimax becomes the next big thing in VR, and we should know that soon enough.

You can check out the Pimax Kickstarter here.


Update (10/27/17): It was incorrectly reported earlier that the 5K headset will feature OLED panels. This is true in current prototypes, but the full production version is said to contain the same type of LCD offered in the 8K headset.

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  • There are 3 new headsets not 2.
    Might want to mention the “8K X” which is absent from the article or new readers will assume there is only the 5K and 8K.

  • Anders Öhlund

    2*4K is 8K in the same way the Atari Jaguar is a “64-bit system”… i.e. it’s not.

    • Jack Liddon

      Jaguar wasn’t 64-bit? Damn you marketing people, damn you!

      • Anders Öhlund

        I’m sorry you had to find out this way…

    • Andrew Jakobs

      That’s where you’re wrong, you’re confused by the “4K UHD” standard, 4K and 8K stands for the horizontal resolution, “4K UHD” term also specifies the vertical resolution.. So because you incorrectly think 4K is the same as 4K UHD doesn’t make it correct. And the jag is a matter of opinion as the GPU and memory bus were 64bit.

    • Evol Love

      For the record, the opinion of most third party developers and observers was that the Jaguar was indeed a 64-bit system. The emphasis is on the word “system”; while not every component is 64 bits, the Jaguar architecture, as a COMPLETE SYSTEM, is.

  • dk

    “The standard “8K” headset also actually upscales a 4K signal to 8K, hence the “8K” in quotation marks”

    lol this marketing is sooo hilarious man

    when it’s actually a headset with 1440p display per eye……..and a headset with 4k per eye with using 1440p signal per eye……….and a headset with 4k per eye native 4k signal per eye

    Pimax 5k/2……Pimax 8k/2-with 5k/2 signal……Pimax 8k/2 X-with 8k/2 signal

    • It’s what happens when you try to apply known TV phrases to HMDs. It is confusing.

      • dk

        nah they just wanted to pretend they have 5k and 8k resolutions and couldn’t think of a good short name like ……..4k/eye

        • 4k/eye is just as confusing to new users because most have two eyes, you shut one eye and still get the same resolution (but diff fov) so why mention it is per eye. You could also say “two 4k panels side by side” which again is confusing for those that understand TV standards. It is just the way it is lol. Maybe they should just list the pixel per inch PPI instead as that is a single value that has a measurable quantity.

  • DG

    I can’t believe how people get fixated with the “8K” label… Yes it’s a marketing strategy, it has been discussed a million times, get over it! The fact is you get 200 FOV and dual 3,840 x 2,160 displays which is a significant step-up over Oculus or Vive’s 1080 x 1200.

    • Get Schwifty!

      The big question…. how long will it take for Oculus/Vive to respond in kind… there’s nothing magic happening with this product that can’t be repeated by other vendors.

      • dz11

        If there’s nothing magical happening with this headset then why hasnlt it been done before by any of the big players?

        • Get Schwifty!

          It’s called “profit”….. clearly you have a move by another group trying to unseat the established players…. little mystery there. The technology is the easy part really….

    • Leon Jimenez

      Yes agreed. There seems to be a knee jerk reaction to complain about something. “Why don’t they have AAA titles!?!?” Ok well Fallout 4 is being ported to VR. “Will it have all DLC’s?” Not at launch. (NERD RAGE ACTIVATE!).

      • JP

        If you’re going to milk the series why not go the whole nine yards and release the DLC’s separately. More money for the stock holders and gamers get a sense of accomplishment…

  • Ryan

    Where is the link to their kickstarter? The first link just takes me to another Road to VR article…

  • MosBen

    I don’t understand all the Pimax hype. Yes, the headset has some nice features, but as the article points out, the ability to make, sell, and ship, tons of consumer-ready hardware takes a lot more money than you’re going to raise on a Kickstarter. Maybe if Pimax had been around in 2013 they could have garnered enough interest to grow the company super fast and become an early big player in VR. Now, though, they’re just another CastAR, where the bet case scenario is to be bought by a bigger company looking to incorporate their tech into the company’s plans. The only problem is that in 2017 most of the big players already have fairly established VR divisions.

    It’s not impossible that they’ll get scooped up by a big player, or someone with money looking to become a big player, but until that happens it’s just a fairly expensive piece of prototype kit that may or may not ever get a wide release. Meanwhile, the next Vive, Rift, and Windows VR headsets will come out over the next couple of years and likely surpass the Pimax.

    • Aekero

      agree to disagree. While I’m not kickstarting it, from everything I’ve read from people who have had a chance to look at it (regular people), it’s pretty impressive. They’ve already released the 4k last year, without crowd funding, so they know how to “make, sell, ship” as you mentioned.

      They are tackling fov and image quality, and to know it’s possible using brainwarp or whatever it’s called with _current_ system hardware is extremely impressive, and if nothing else will make the market stronger. Oculus santa cruz doesn’t have a fov that large. I want that, amongst other things.

      I do agree that gen 2 of oculus and vive will surpass the 8k, that’s the reason I’m trying my best to hold back, the pimax 8k lacks wireless amongst other things….
      But Oculus has said they’re not rushing out new versions, so if the pimax is better for the next 2 years, it’s no different than saying “wait for pimax 16k, it’ll beat oculus 2!”

      Also agree with DG, who cares about the name? It’s much much higher pixel density than current gen, and has seemingly eliminated sde, that’s what matters.

      • MosBen

        The first thing to be clear of is that having an impressive prototype is great, but not sufficient for them to become a major player in VR. I don’t want to take anything away from the 8k being a cool piece of tech. It certainly seems to be. But the question is where is this headset going to go? Will it be make a wide release after the Kickstarter awards are fulfilled? Will it be surpassed by a new device from one of the big players soon-ish after they launch?

        I think that the comparison to CastAR is apt and telling. They had cool tech too, but what is someone who backed that Kickstarter doing with their Kickstarter reward CastAR device now? When it comes to computer hardware Kickstarter is a good way to create a lot of buzz in order to generate interest for future investment or outright purchase by an established player or a company looking for an easy way to jump into a new hardware segment. But it’s not clear who that would be for Pimax because the time to make a splash with a VR-based Kickstarter was 2013-2014. Since then all of the big players have either bought companies like Pimax or built their own internal VR division.

        So ultimately this looks like an interesting product from a company that might very well not be around in a few years, and whose tech will be surpassed by the companies that are already established in this segment.

        • Aekero

          Appreciate the response, I can partially agree with this. Who knows if they’ll become a major player or not? I could argue that there’s plenty of room if they focus on China/Asia as a market. There are plenty of major players in various technologies that we in the U.S. know nothing about.

          I suppose you could look at it this way, are vr headsets going to be software exclusive, like an xbox, in which case there’s very little room for more than a few players. Or, will it be hardware that is used to consume content like a television, in which case there are dozens of manufacturers out there.

          That being said, if the 8k performs well, which it sounds like it might, then it’s a solid experience for the time being. If Pimax survives? Great. If Pimax sells and integrates the tech that they have focused on into another headset, also ok.

          The hype is simply around the fact that it’s a giant step up in fov and sde, and those are two of the noticeable complaints of the current gen.

        • Nyco30

          You know, One Plus might not have existed with that kind of arguments. They arrived at a time when the technology existed, the market was filled in, yet they made their entry into the market without a doubt almost 4 years ago and is a company to look at when buying a new phone as it competes with the majors. Not saying they have the best product on the market (bought an S8 instead of the OP5 although I was an early OPO supporter and owner) but still they are worth customers’ attention. Well, Pimax may just become the same thing for VR.

      • Leon Jimenez

        It has a wireless upgrade. Not sure when it will be available but they had a $100 coupon as a stretch goal. Hopefully it will be a good transition headset and maybe out a fire under the bigger players.

    • Sofian

      A successful KS campaign is likely to help find investors.

      “Meanwhile, the next Vive, Rift, and Windows VR headsets will come out over the next couple of years”

      oh…

      • MosBen

        That assumes that there are investors to get. Don’t get me wrong. The Pimax looks like a nice bit of tech, but the questions that need to be answered are 1) Are they going to be the company to mass produce headsets and become a major player in VR as themselves; or 2) If they’re going to be bought and have their tech incorporated into another company’s plans, which company would that be?

        I don’t think that 1 is very likely. It’s hard to scale up a hardware company from being able to sell a niche product to having the capacity to push out enough units to compete with the big players like Oculus and also continue to do product research so you have new stuff coming down the pipeline. That all takes lots of physical space, people, organization, and money. And the money taken in from a Kickstarter is a drop in the bucket. As for 2, it’s not impossible that someone will pick them up, but Apple and MS have been building their VR departments for years. Facebook already made their big acquisition and neither Valve or HTC seem likely to shell out money for them. The bigger third party players like Lenovo are just following MS’ reference design,so striking out with a more unique design doesn’t make sense, and Acer is already invested in StarVR. It’s not impossible that someone will swoop in and buy them up, but it’s not obvious who that would be.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      they’re already selling the 4K unit, so they are way beyond a CastAR scenario..

      • gothicvillas

        apparently their 4k unit sucked big time

        • dz11

          Looks pretty good according to this long term review:

          https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aiJ2ubH-a0A

          They also seem to listen to their users and try to fix things which is a nice change. Very impressed with this company.

    • Leon Jimenez

      Couple years? You underestimate our patience. :) I agree that I am skeptical they can deliver in January because they are still making modifications. But the 3.5 million they raised is plenty for an Asian manufacturer. We often think of U.S. dollars and not how far it can go in asia. They delivered 30,000 4k units this year so that’s not an issue. I think performance is where they may stumble a bit. They haven’t got the unit to 90mhz yet. But $500 is not a lot for me so I am willing to help push the industry along and support the platform. Hoping for a holodeck experience before I die and these are the baby steps we take.

      • MosBen

        I guess I get it for people for whom $500 isn’t a lot of money and just want to encourage the industry to grow, and who knows, maybe that’s everyone that’s backing the Kickstarter. I just view Kickstarter for this type of product as being primarily about either using the campaign to attract venture capital or attracting a big company to buy you out for your tech and name. Oculus did both, but that was back in 2013, when they had a revolutionary product and nobody else was really working on it.

        I guess I also just don’t see the VR industry of the future being a landscape of dozens of HMDs all running basically the same software; that is, that a small manufacturer like Pimax will be able to get by selling 100k units. Maybe that would be a better future though, so I guess that I wish that it happens, but will remain skeptical. In the mean time, if any of my friends ask me which HMD to pick up, I’d probably still recommend the Rift or Vive, or possibly one of the Windows ones.

  • Miqa

    Oculus Kickstarter actively discouraged consumers to contribute though. A pretty important factor if you want to compare the campaigns.

  • superdonkey

    whatever happens they have kicked the established vr boys in the virtual nuts which is good for the consumer

    • dz11

      Not good for this website though as i’m sure they get zero advertising revenue from primus hence why they seem biased against it succeeding.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    There is a difference between the Pimax kickstarter and the Oculus, for Oculus it was a way to actually get a real prototype working and shipping it to their backers, in this case, Pimax already has a 4K unit on the market, and so the money from this kickstarter is for setting up the production of the 5k/8K units..

    • Marienx

      No, the difference is that Oculus made a Kickstarter for a none existent product. Making ppl believe in VR when no one had experimented one was hard. This PPL got the easy part done by the competition, and because of the competition is that they were able to raise so much backing.

      • Nyco30

        Well. You gotta give it to them: they also provide a next-gen VR headset that everyone asks for while Oculus and Vive are still sitting on their old tech. I’m amazed at how people forget about Facebook claim almost exactly a year ago to their competitors “don’t hurry: we need to deliver a product that will satisfy the client, not arriving with a half-baked product that will drive them away from VR”. Well, we’re there: backdoor effect, resolution being just meh, still no wireless unless you want to use third party faulty material…Pimax comes to the customers saying that they will answer most of these needs. Oculus and Vive could have done that. They didn’t.

        So Pimax might not have done the hardest part of introducing a new tech, sure, but they definitely raise the bar to what is considered by many as an acceptable product. I don’t see any harm in that, quite the contrary actually. And before barking: no, I am not a funder, as I am still doubtful about this product real delivery. I will judge over time, like for DK2 and last year gen.

        • Marienx

          An essay long response to something so clear. No one is arguing your points. I just pointed out in regards to the article the reason why they raised so much backing in comparison to Oculus. The rest Primax did had to be done since they have competition, but as far.as the hardest part goes, it was done by the competition.

  • Xron

    Their 3kk goal is FREE EYE TRACKING. (Might be gamechanger in my opinion).

  • Michael Banks

    does this system come with a HMD & if so how do I stick them together ? ;)

  • Michael Banks

    Does it requires AAA or AA batteries ?

  • Christian Vogelgesang

    It’s amazing how fast they solve all the problems that others weren’t able to solve yet. They are even able to produce all the stuff that is not yet designed over the chinese new year. They really get my kudos, if they are able to hold their promises. :D

  • Henk Janssens

    Does it have fans? (like the pic shows)
    That wouldn’t be a good thing would it?

    • gothicvillas

      well spotted! yeah what for are these??

  • Yes, the context matters a lot. Oculus started the VR revolution. Pimax is working inside an already existing VR ecosystem

  • Adrian Meredith

    Sold out! Arrrr was soon tempted to get one even put in my card details but ultimately it’s the fact that we haven’t even seen the final controllers yet that put me off. So good to see this be a runaway success though! Will spur valve/HTC to really make something next gen

  • Corinna Davie

    is this new pimax 8k x anywhere near to having detail as if you was playing the latest games on your pc monitor? playing games on my oculus rift feel as if i am playing games from the playstation 1 but it would be nice to play games in vr with same kind of details as if you are playing on a 4k monitor with maxed out settings