At Slush 2017, Helsinki-based Varjo Technologies today announced an additional investment of $6.7 million from the Finnish business development group Tekes to continue development on their “human eye-resolution” display for VR headsets. The company also announced they’ll be shipping their first Alpha Prototype to a number of development partners before the end of year.

Update (11/30/17): It was stated in a previous version of this article that the Varjo Bionic display was composed of a 1920×1080 display per eye when in fact there are two displays per eye – a single 1080×1200 ‘context’ display that sits in the background and a much smaller 1920×1080 microdisplay that is tracked to your eye. We’ve corrected the article to reflect this.

The $6.7 million from Tekes adds to their recent $8.2m Series A round led by EQT Ventures Fund, announced back in September.

Varjo’s newly announced development partners include 20th Century Fox, Airbus, Audi, BMW and Technicolor, and will help the company optimize their “human eye-resolution” display for further development. The company says its Beta Prototypes will be shipping to new and existing partners during Q1 2018.

image courtesy Varjo

Urho Konttori, CEO and founder of Varjo Technologies says the company plans on launching “a profoundly revolutionary VR/XR headset by the end of 2018.”

The announcement coincides with the company’s first public technology demonstration which happened this week at Slush 2017, the annual Helsinki-based startup conference. Notably, Varjo’s booth got an important visitor as well; Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.

image courtesy Varjo

What makes the company’s ‘Bionic’ display so special is a unique implementation of two displays per eye; a 1080×1200 resolution ‘context’ display that sits in the background, and a much smaller 1920×1080 resolution microdisplay. Since the headset features eye-tracking, the image from smaller display is designed to move in tandem with the eyes natural saccades. This, in effect, makes the perceived resolution much higher than a standard fixed display like those found in Oculus Rift or HTC Vive.

As for positional tracking, Varjo’s Alpha Prototype is tracked by the SteamVR Lighthouse tracking standard.

Varjo is working closely with NVIDIA and AMD “to provide the best possible VR/XR experience for its partners.” Varjo prototypes are also being shipped with both Unreal and Unity plugins to enable content creation.

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Hands-on: Varjo's Latest 'Beta' Prototype is a Promising Shortcut to Retina Resolution

“I’m incredibly proud of the team that took a proof of concept into a custom-built technology prototype in just a few short months,” said Konttor. “Together with our world-leading partners, we are now perfecting the technology and plan to launch a profoundly revolutionary VR/XR headset by the end of 2018.”

We’ll be following Varjo as it makes inroads to the enterprise sector with its VR headset.

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  • Guest

    1080p is human eye res…OK. I hope these guys get attacked for their gimmicky marketing the same way Pimax have.

    • dk

      it’s probably 60fov or less…….in that case the pixels per degree or angular resolution gets pretty high …..possibly close to 20/20 vision but it’s like binoculars

      • Lucidfeuer

        Not exactly how it work, the retinal “resolution” (as in what’s in your central focus) is about 4K. So even if they reduced FOV° they would be far for human eye resolution.

        • dk

          Carmak was once mentioning that at 150 fov u will need something like 16k by 16 k to have 20/20 vision …..it was something like that
          so if u calculate it linearly that’s 106 pixels per degree
          so 1920 at 60 degrees fov is 32
          and rift/vive is about 11
          “what’s in your central focus” they mention foviated rendering for some reason most likely not to strain your eyes when u r looking at something close up……….but the pixel density of the display will be constant across the panel it won’t be higher resolution in the centre of the display unless the whole display moves around when u r looking around

          P.S. someone mentioned that they r moving the display around …..that’s a pretty funky solution and not that robust

          • Cdaked

            It does not work like that. It just increase the resolution in the small area to which you are looking, not just in the center.

          • Lucidfeuer

            What Carmack said sound about right, but 16k x 16k glowing leds focused to your eyes will fry your retinas in no time, not counting that there will never be a need to render something at 16k x 16k especially given that your maximum eyesight “resolution” at a given “frame” for ~220°fov is about 12k max. That’s one of the reasons why whatever the solution ends being, asynchronous foveated rendering will be the natural way of outputting graphics for these devices.

          • G-man

            fry your retinas? lol, sure.

    • Flikr

      They didn’t explain it in this article at all. There’s a microdisplay being moved around in front of the 1080×1200 screen that stays in your focus vision. It’s 1080p, yeah, but it’s small enough that the pixels per degree is much closer if not equal to the human eye. Anything outside this display will be current gen resolution.

      • Thanks for the clarity, Flikr. We’ve done more digging and updated the article to reflect this.

    • Hi there Guest! I’ve updated the article with more accurate information surrounding Varjo’s display technology. If it does what the company says it does, it will deliver the perception of a much higher resolution picture to the eye thanks to a two display systems working in tandem, a normal fixed display and a smaller micro display that will always remain visible in the center of your view thanks to eye tracking.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Pimax isn’t lying.. the display actually is 8K.. it’s just referring to the horizontal resolution, just like with 4K… what you are thinking of is 4K UHD (the UHD also describes the vertical resolution).

    • G-man

      1080p is human eye resolution, at a certain distance and size. jackass

      and 8k is pixel width, not resolution.

  • dk

    sure what was the fov 60 or below that

    • Cdaked

      Is 100º at this moment.

  • GigaSora

    I question how they’re planning to mitigate magnification problems with texturing. If they really plan on going for human eye resolution, they’ll need some new filtering techniques. Everything is just going to look blocky.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      No, what’s in the vision of your eye is sharp, what’s in your peripheral view is very low resolution, with that it only needs to rended fullhd per eye and no need for 4K.

      • kool

        Vr does make objects look like props. Higher poly counts and lydar scans will make it photorealistic. Itll take haptic skins to make it feel real until brainwave inputs enable neuro feedback lol.

  • I tested this headset at GTC17 in Munich and this was by far the best experience. They use a mirror projection of a small human eye-resolution OLED display from SONY on top of an usual display and the result is amazing. The sweet spot is unbelievable sharp. I also tested SartVR and other headsets but Varjo is just the next level.

    • Graham J ⭐️

      mirror projection… so do they actually move a mirror around to keep it in front of your eye? I can’t imagine that being fast enough.

      • In the first demo it was a static projection like in the picture. They could use piezo for fast mirror movements. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9d9e79ab1c303c4f384ae5ac41bfa4f7ca79b6d609759ae594bb5535115a69f4.png

        • Lucidfeuer

          Piezo-electromechanical systems would not be fast enough unless it covers a slightly wider range than your retina.

          • G-man

            well good thing we have experts here. hows your vr headset coming along?

          • Lucidfeuer

            Just design/conception case studies for companies for now. But I sure hope to work my ways up towards a real headset in a few years.

          • ZenInsight

            Lol

        • dk

          hmmm neat…..not being static must be a nightmare to design

        • Graham J ⭐️

          I dunno, I don’t see that being fast enough. In order to cover the fovea’s movement range the mirror would have to be quite large and would have to swivel in two dimensions. Even then the apparent image would only be rectangular when viewed straight on so I imagine the microdisplay would have to swivel too. And all this without any of the movement hardware being visible.

          I’m not saying it’s impossible but I imagine it’s quite a difficult problem to solve!

    • Yosarin Blake

      Really? So much better than the Vive / Rift? Even better than a Pimax 8k? I can only pray after this prototype they may one day follow up with the kind of FOV of a Pimax 8k! Cheers!

  • ali

    Frantastic stuff, using an ultra high resolution in the middle (3000 ppi) while the surrounding is lower. Great idea….

  • Lucidfeuer

    I’m still impressed by the form-factor, while most prototype are unbearable fat pieces of crap. Their prototype fitted an Oculus. But without a moving microdisplay or splitter there is not much use since the users is NEVER in fixed focus especially when moving (otherwise that’s called a flat screen). Curious to see their solution.

  • psuedonymous

    Notice they are extremely careful in their claims about this prototype: it features eye-tracking, and a sub-display, but nowhere do they claim or imply the subdisplay is mobile. Given how short a time ago they were demo-ing a hacked CV1 with a fixed subdisplay (and how soon they claim to be shipping these), I suspect these also use a fixed subdisplay. If they had functional tech months from shipping to move a microdisplay fast enough to keep up with saccades they would have shown THAT in their demo units, not merely shown the easy display-in-display part.

  • Yoshi

    I’m interested in seeing what the beta version will be like. However, I can’t help but think that by the time they have a unit ready for the market, HTC or another company will already have a superior product for the market. At the moment, we’re seeing some amazing results from Pimax (with a 200 degree FOV).