Developers looking for a unique Linux-based workstation may be interested to hear that SimulaVR, the startup behind its own open-source VR Linux distro, is creating a standalone VR headset that aims to offer just that.

Dubbed ‘Simula One’, the standalone VR headset isn’t meant for gaming, rather it’s targeting programmers, software engineers, developers—essentially anyone who uses Linux for work-related stuff.

For now, the company has mentioned basic features and has also shown off a prototype of Simula One. It’s certainly capturing the cool, retro vibe that’s ostensibly taking inspiration from early home computers such as Magnavox Odyssey, Atari 2600 and Apple II.

Image courtesy SimulaVR

So far, we only know a few definite things about Simula One. The headset is said to come with a detachable x86 compute pack which will arrive with the company’s SimulaOS open-source VR window manager installed by default, the very same which can be installed and run on SteamVR headsets such as Valve Index and HTC Vive Pro.

Simula One is also said to include hand tracking via UltraLeap, a passthrough AR mode so you can keep an eye on your surroundings, and “other goodies to be unveiled in the coming weeks and months,” SimulaVR founder George Singer says in a blog post.

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The company is tentatively aiming to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the headset in January 2022. Singer says we’ll hear more about delivery and price for Simula One in the coming weeks, as well as product updates, pictures, and videos of the headset.

It’s clear Simula One is appealing to a pretty small subset of VR users with its hardware-focused approach—i.e. not a virtual machine running Linux, which is admittedly a more general purpose solution. Still, the promise of a standalone VR headset that natively runs Linux out of the box is pretty intriguing, and it will be interesting to see what developers can do with it besides simply using command line to continue work within VR.

In any case, we’ll be following Simula One in the coming weeks as it nears its Kickstarter launch. Make sure to check back for more info as it arrives.

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  • Ad

    I hope the passthrough is really good but either way this is intriguing.

    • David Kraeutmann

      Laptop with VR for multiple independent windows (as opposed to Immersed etc which require individual virtual displays)

  • jiink

    hello mini-deckard

  • Bob

    Not sure why anyone would want a Linux specific headset for “work-related” purposes on Linux. This will serve a microscopically tiny fraction of a fraction of a subset of users in an already tiny and emerging market within another tiny market. It’s safe to say they’re clearly not launching this product to make any single amount of money in the short or the long term. Perhaps the group of five Linux users that wanted this are now happy that their idea is at least out there in the open.

    • An augmented reality work environment that doesn’t require the sheer mass of hardware that makes up my multiple monitors and desk space, that would let me work effectively from any comfortable seat I could find?

      And it’s native to the same platform I use for work on a daily basis, just like thousands of other tech workers who make the internet go?

      What’s not to like?

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        • You actually sound more legit than “Simula One” …. lol

      • Charles

        If it’s extremely lightweight, it could be an interesting way to work for Linux developers.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Have you seen the images? there’s nothing lightweight about those. I think you’re better off using the Vive Flow for something like that.

          • Christian Schildwaechter

            We don’t know that. The weight of the Quest 2 comes from batteries, SoC, cooling etc., all crammed into a very tiny space. Compared to that a much larger HTC Vive mostly consists of empty space. Admittedly the SimulaOne doesn’t look particularly lightweight, and the amount of plastic visible alone will probably make it heavier than the Flow, even if all the plastic encloses is air.

            But it might make sense to create such a large HMD for this specific use case. If they are going for a hires display with aspheric lenses, and they don’t have access to matching microdisplays, their best option would be to go for a big display panel at a larger distance to need less magnification in the lenses and thereby reduce image and color distortion. One of the reasons that Meta etc. use(d) fresnel lenses is that their optical parameters are easier to control towards the edges that with clear lenses.

            Going big would be a very bad choice for a regular VR HMD, where you are expected to quickly turn your head all the time, so everything sticking out further acts like a lever, adding to the pulling force during the turn. In a HMD only worn as a virtual desktop replacement with only slow, minor turns, the benefits of a large HMD may outweigh the disadvantages, esp. if the front part is really almost empty and the electronics necessary to drive the display and cameras is placed as a counterweight at the back of the head. As this is not a standalone, no special SoC, battery or cooling should be needed, so creating a balanced device intended to be worn for long sessions should be easier.

    • Christian Schildwaechter

      I’m not sure if there is any significant market for this device, but I’m pretty sure it is more than five users, simply from the sheer amount of people here repeatedly wishing for a virtual multi monitor solution. This is exactly that: a desktop manager that allows you to sit at a desk, have a large number of virtual screens that can be used with all your desktop software. You can already run in on SteamVR HMDs, now they will offer a matching, portable HMD on Kickstarter.

      It pretty much has to run Linux, as only Linux allows completely replacing the Windows manager while staying compatible to existing apps, but as you can e.g. use Wine to run a large number of Windows apps within a Linux window manager instead of having to use a full blown VM, this might be interesting to a number of Windows users too.

      Yes, this is extremely niche, it targets one very specific use case of VR that is completely unrelated to games. But being niche doesn’t make it superfluous. Linus Tech Tips/ShortCircuit recently reviewed the GPD Pocket 3 modular mini laptop, a rather expensive 8″ handheld 0.7kg PC that has one special feature: a special socket for swappable modules, one of which provides an RS-232 serial interface, another working as a KVM device with HDMI in and keyboard/mouse passthrough. This is aimed at people working around in data centers, so they can hook up to either switches etc. still using a serial port or connect the handheld to a headless server, use the laptop screen with the server display out and its keyboard to config the machine.

      Ultra-niche, but if you look at the comment section, data center engineers with this specific use case are basically willing to kill to get their hands on this device. A number of streamers where also very interested, as the HDMI-IN is realized via a build-in capture card. And while I wouldn’t kill for a niche VR HMD using a small x86 compute device, I really miss my multiple large monitor setup for development when on the road, and would really appreciate a light VR alternative.

      • Arno van Wingerde

        You made me curious here… How does that work in practice? Yes, you can simulate a multi-monitor setup with VR glasses… but the resolution would be poor (try to sit out a movie in a cinema app in VR). And how are you going to code anything with a VR keyboard?

        • david vincent

          New headsets have pretty decent resolution nowadays and coders don’t need to look at their keyboard.

        • Christian Schildwaechter

          Reviews for the Varjo Aero mention that the image is extremely sharp, thanks to a combination of aspheric lenses and a resolution of 2,880 * 2,720 per eye, with hardly discernible pixels, so the display technology is already available. But like with the Vive Pro 2 featuring “only” 2.5K per eye, the real problem is driving this resolution in VR, 7.8MP for the Varjo Aero, requiring something like an RTX 3080 or better.

          Unless you don’t use the display for typical VR use cases like games or simulations and instead just project a couple of hires virtual screens onto flat planes floating in an almost empty world, which takes up almost no GPU performance beyond what would have been necessary to render the same screens on normal flatscreen monitors.

          The keyboard solution might be similar to what Meta is doing with the Quest. They use the cameras to track the environment, including hand tracking and recognizing certain objects like the rectangular keyboard. Meta currently supports one Logitech and a few Macbook keyboards, all including a trackpad, so no extra mouse needs to be tracked. Then they overlay the images of the key labels on top of the passed through image of the keyboard and hands, making it readable despite the very fuzzy b/w image. Varjo also showed a solution where fiducial markers are placed on objects (e.g. a steering wheel), then the objects dimensions are drawn in VR, and from then on the passthrough image of the real objects always appears in the right position within the HMD.

          I don’t know if this is what they are doing, as there are no specs yet, but by picking this very specific niche of desktop VR with multiple virtual monitors they can leverage a number of technologies that already exist, but that aren’t that useful for generic VR yet because other components are missing.

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  • Who would be stupid enough to kickstart a HMD
    with all the blockbusters coming starting next month …??
    Oh yeah, *these* guys would. lol I guess now the question is:
    who’d be stupid enough to donate to this boondoggle …??

    • ViRGiN

      When DecaGoons get their refund they will invest in this one instead. Competition is great!

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Refund? Has DecaGear thrown the towel into the ring?

        • Bob

          CEO has quit and the company is in a sort of disarray. And they still do not have a working prototype in their labs.

          • Sven Viking

            I’m sorry to hear that but it’s not exactly surprising. Implausible promises aside, companies like Oculus and Pimax were showing off prototypes publicly before their Kickstarter campaigns ended (or began), whereas DecaGear seemed to have nothing to show a month before they were supposed to be shipping the final product.

          • Bob

            Red flags were already raised when the CEO came out of nowhere to announce a product with many advanced features that didn’t exist, and at an affordable price. A quick background check led to a startup company, situated in Thailand, with no prior industry experience with hardware or software.

            To any VR enthusiast with a bit of common sense and basic research skills, Mega Dodo’s marketing ploy would have been ineffective. To the average joe, they would have fallen for the ploy leading them to commit financially without having any idea of the actual immense effort required to develop and mass produce an advanced HMD. This led to the DecaMove, but their inexperience and considerable lack of resources, manpower and talent has gradually opened the cracks and exposed them for what they are – a company with grand ambitions but unable to execute.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Which blockbusters? AND STOP USING BOLD!!

      • Thud

        He’s a narcissist. He’s more important than everyone else.

  • ViRGiN

    I knew it’s going to be Kickstarter before even reading the article. Stay away people.

  • Nothing to see here

    I would face palm but I have a giant plastic brick in the way.

  • Onikaze

    I guess this will offer a new headset to those that got the open vr headset from Razer.

    looking at the camera placement it strikes me as a pretty small forward tracking cone, but let’s wait and see what the actual specs are. Like pretty much all would be competitors I hope they bering the thunder but I don’t see and ominous clouds on the horizon when I look at their site and what they say the focus is.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    None of those headsets are slated for next month or even first half of 2022. And Valve’s Deckard is only rumors from fanboys, no actual news about it coming next month, and also not for the first half of 2022, if it comes at all.
    And Cambria, well, also no mention by Meta that it would come next month, earliest I would suspect is starting april/may.

    But I do agree that I don’t expect this headset to do much business, too many others already on the market and I’d doubt they will be able to have a high FOV/resolution for an acceptable price for which you won’t just buy something even like the Focus 3.

    • Sven Viking

      The most I hope for is that they might show off Cambria at CES with a release later in the year, but even that feels like a long shot.

      • Bob

        “The most I hope for is that they might show off Cambria at CES”

        No that will not happen. If they have anything to show or reveal, it will be done on their own separate event which is expected to be in the spring/summer.

        • Correct.
          At least *somebody* here is using their brain.

          • Sven Viking

            Which of the headsets you mention are you expecting “next month” in that case?

      • They won’t.

  • Sven Viking

    Only good thing is that DecaGear didn’t take full payment upfront. Some people preordered with a $10 deposit while others preordered with no deposit. Those $10s are presumably gone now but at least it wasn’t whatever the full price was.

    • But when you multiply $10 times however many people bought-in,
      they secured a nice little chunk of change for themselves.

  • This looks very nerdy

  • JB1968

    Yet another niche within niche.

  • xyzs

    Cool project :)
    Of course they don’t intend to make million out of it, why people would criticize that fact ?
    What could emerge from it is a good opensource tracking algorithm, that allows good inside-out tracking to be used on this – and other – non meta headsets.

  • Thud

    So Cary, it’s just you and the Spambots using all bold. How do you like the company you keep?

  • I had looked to Linux as well when we were developing a HMD based on the NVIDIA TX2 only because NVIDIA wouldn’t release an Android build but abandoned the project when NVIDIA didn’t make the SOC available in any quantity ( thanks to Magic Leap ) at the time.

    Also what happened to SteamVR on Linux? Now that Valve has jumped back into the Linux world with the ‘Steam Deck’ it seems Linux could make itself back into VR especially now that Vulkan has matured. Plus, I would love to see a belt pack based AMD Ryzen 6000 series with one of those new micro OLED/pancake lens HMDs.

    Also, the tech specs are very vague and the design reminds me of Qualcomm dev unit and frankly “retro design” only reflects basic industrial design skills. From my review of the limited tech info, this looks like a two piece design with separate HMD and PC/laptop component. It would have to be to run the Intel processor.