razer hdk hands on ces 2015 (3)

After yesterday’s announcement of OSVR and the ‘Hacker Development Kit’, we met up with creators Razer and Sensics to check out the forthcoming $199 headset for ourselves.

See Also: Razer Announces $199 ‘Hacker Dev Kit’ VR Headset as Part of OSVR Initiative

Anyone that’s seen an Oculus Rift will immediately recognize the OSVR HDK VR headset. The unit is based on the same fundamental concepts: a small raster display in front of your eyes, separated by lenses that magnify and focus the image, an IMU inside for headtracking, and straps to hold it all comfortably on your head. But that’s not to say the HDK doesn’t bring unique features to the table.

For one, the unit sports independent per-eye IPD and diopter adjustments. That means that you can readily adjust the distance between the lenses (to match the distance between your eyes) and the focus of each lens, to correctly match each user’s need (or not) for corrective vision. This is something that people with glasses and outlying IPDs have been asking about for some time, but we haven’t yet seen from any of the major players, save for a linked diopter adjustment on Samsung’s Gear VR.

Second, the HDK VR headset has a two-element lens system (compared to a single lens from most others in the space) which the company says eliminates the need for pre-warping or chromatic aberration correction of the rendered scene, whereas the majority of headsets out there are using the aforementioned techniques to correct for distortions introduced by their lenses.

SEE ALSO
VR Coaster and Sensics to Create All-in-one VR Headset for Theme Parks

razer hdk vr headset osvr (5)

Before we jump into impressions, it’s important to note that this is a development kit, it’s right there in the name—Hacker Developer Kit. Furthermore, the unit we tried is a prototype of the final version which is expected to launch in June for $199. Razer says that the schematics of the HDK are open and available to all, allowing anyone to build and even sell the device, or variants thereof. In the end, they don’t think that most people will be creating their own headset for sale, but rather opt to hack the headset, making mods where they see fit. Razer, and Sensics, who collaboratively designed the headset, say that the unit is designed modulary to make modification easy. The HDK schematics can currently be requested at the OSVR website.

See Also: Oculus Open-sources Rift DK1 – Mechanical Designs, Firmware, and More All Freely Available

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The OSVR HDK prototype we tried is about what you’d expect from its on-paper specs. The 1080p display offers the same pixel density of the Oculus Rift DK2, but lacks the OLED display tech that affords a number of benefits to the latter, including infinitely dark blacks, low-persistence display, and richer colors. The 90 degree diagonal field of view felt perfectly comparable to that of the DK2. The build quality felt very good for a prototype, which I suppose shouldn’t surprise us given Razer’s penchant for peripheral design.

razer hdk hands on ces 2015 (2)

The two-element lenses did impress. With no pre-warping or chromatic abberation correction of the rendered frames, I saw a sharp scene that didn’t have any noticeable warping or chromatic aberration, even when looking around the scene with my eyes without moving my head (which often reveals lens artifacts). Representatives from Razer and Sensics, said that rendering performance is improved by removing the need to pre-warp the image and apply chromatic abberation correction.

SEE ALSO
VR Coaster and Sensics to Create All-in-one VR Headset for Theme Parks

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The headtracking, tracked with a Bosch-made IMU, left me underwhelmed when stacked up against devices in the same class, with fast movements in particular reporting seemingly inaccurate data. Given that this is a prototype of the unit that won’t ship until June, it’s reasonable to expect this to improve before launch with the refinement of sensor fusion algorithms for the IMU data, especially knowing the strides that Oculus made from a purely software standpoint with the Rift DK1’s tracking.

There’s still ergonomic and functional design work to be done before the final units are shipped in June. The current prototypes have ample openings around the lenses, allowing dust to easily get onto the screen (a big deal when we’re talking about a 5.5 inch screen magnified right in front of your eyes). Razer and Sensics assured me that the final HDK design would have a sealed lens-screen system. The strap comfort was fine, but the company rightly continues to iterate on the face-interface (where the headset actually comes in contact with your face) to increase comfort.

razer hdk hands on ces 2015 (5)

The ability to adjust both IPD and dioper are undeniably useful for widespread usability. Adjusting each is simple: knobs on the bottom of the HDK VR headset can slide back and forth for IPD adjustment and forward and back for diopter adjustment. Twisting the knobs allows tightening or loosening the mechanism to make the adjustments. In practice it’s difficult to make accurate adjustments just by eyeballing it. Razer and Sensics agreed that some sort of calibration sequence would likely be a good idea. They also mentioned that they were considering having the headset be able to read the IPD and diopter settings for both optimal adjustment of the rendered image and allowing the user to easily return to a known setting.

SEE ALSO
VR Coaster and Sensics to Create All-in-one VR Headset for Theme Parks

The current lack of positional tracking (the ability to move your head through 3D space) seems like a big deal, but Gear VR has demonstrated that it very much depends upon the kind of content available for the device. In the end, positional tracking is always going to be better for the VR experience than no positional tracking. Razer and Sensics are aware of the need for positional tracking and say that the open nature of the product means that anyone could decide to create and sell a positional tracking solution made for the HDK, They’ve also mentioned it’s something they may add at a later stage, suggesting that they want the market to decide what’s important for the headset.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the HDK prototype will improve for its initial launch come June, along with execution of the broader goal of OSVR—creating an open source SDK that’s compatible with a multitude of devices from VR headsets to input devices.

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  • George

    Love to see the competition, though I doubt my first VR headset will be anything but an Oculus. This brings up an issue with the public, without the ability to try each head set out much will be decided by reviews and brands, but the first company to get their headset into a store demo will have a pretty big advantage (assuming the unit is good), and Oculus sounded like they are in no rush to do so themselves. Razor is the first brand of VR headsets that I’ve seen that has products on the shelf in the stores already (not including Samsung’s Gear VR), this likely gives them an advantage getting their headset into that market.

  • MMajor

    “the unit sports independent per-eye IPD and diopter adjustments. That means that you can readily adjust the distance between the lenses (to match the distance between your eyes) and the focus of each lens, to correctly match each user’s need (or not) for corrective vision. This is something that people with glasses and outlying IPDs have been asking about for some time, but we haven’t yet seen from any of the major players, save for a linked diopter adjustment on Samsung’s Gear VR.”

    The first unit I have seen offering this feature was the Totem some time ago, an often ignored or simply unknown competitor out of Canada. they seem to suffer from limited media coverage outside of Canada but I am looking forward to what they physically produce this year for a usable device. http://www.vrvana.com/

  • crim3

    So, a headset needs to been “open source” for positional tracking be added? XD

  • Alkapwn

    I’m a little bit concerned about this product to be honest. I’m a big fan of Razer, and will always be one.

    Anyone familiar with Razer is also familiar with RMA’s. In my personal opinion they see a need in a market for a better version of a product, or improvements that can be made on the status quo. Then they make a greatly concepted and stylized product with many features and improvements, sometimes even best in the market. And then they break.

    It’s a very weird relationship to have with a company. You look at their version of a product, clearly better than the rest in style and features but at the same time wondering how long it will actually work for after you buy it. It’s like your gambling every time with the higher cost of the better experience for potentially a shorter lifespan of the product. Is it better to have loved a higher gaming experience and lost than to have never loved a higher gaming experience at all? I honestly don’t know yet. I keep playing the game.

    Opinions on Razer aside, this just seems to me like another company trying not to be left behind in VR. All these companies are getting their track shoes on to jump into the race, meanwhile Oculus is on the last lap already.

  • spark

    I would like to know if the two lens optics really removes all the chromatic aberration – as claimed.

    It seems like new optical physics would be required to do this.

  • brantlew

    “In practice it’s difficult to make accurate adjustments just by eyeballing it. Razer and Sensics agreed that some sort of calibration sequence would likely be a good idea. They also mentioned that they were considering having the headset be able to read the IPD and diopter settings for both optimal adjustment of the rendered image and allowing the user to easily return to a known setting.”

    As far as I’m concerned, this is an absolute requirement for the hardware – especially the lens inter-axial reading which determines the optical centers of the stereo images. Without it user are going to be looking at painfully skewed and distorted images (no matter what they saying about the optics).

  • Alkapwn

    It really does just seem to me like they put this together without really thinking about everything required to make this a good product. No positional tracking, no low persistence, you know two unanimously agreeable must-haves for adequate VR.

    But $200 though, so… the same price Oculus is targeting for a full tier VR system that’s been researched and developed by arguably the best and brightest in this field.

    Unless their whole plan is banking on the software side of things to carry this project, I just don’t get it. All these “modular” parts, who’s making them? Are they off the shelf resourced or are they all made available by Razer?

    • SuperDre

      uhh, Oculus is targeting a much higer price, more around the same price as the current DK2….

  • SuperDre

    I still think that a much better calibration setup is something the DK2 also needs.. but better lenses is also not a bad idea if it will lower the rendering requirements..

  • Jacob Pederson

    Exited to see if chromatic aberration has really been eliminated here! In DK2, it is very difficult to read text in Elite Dangerous due to this problem. Unfortunately, without positional tracking this headset is going to be a recipe for VR sickness, and there is really no way to keep the price at $200 if they get positional tracking figured out.

  • Darshan Gayake

    How was Screen door compared to DK2 and Crystal Cove as both are Pentile and this one is apparently RGB pannel. Is it possible to see a video review where you can show through optics image??