Varjo, maker of high-end XR headsets, and OpenBCI, a company creating open source brain-computer interface solutions, today announced a new partnership that’s bringing OpenBCI’s long-awaited neural interface ‘Galea‘ to Varjo’s latest Aero VR headset, something the companies say will provide “a deeper understanding to augment the human mind.”

Update (11:15 ET): Previously OpenBCI had tapped Valve and eye-tracking firm Tobii as a product partners for Galea, with the intent of integrating it into Valve Index. It’s uncertain whether OpenBCI aims to continue that partnership. We’ve reached out for additional details and will update here.

Pricing was also a mystery, since orders are only open to previous beta partners. Tech analyst and YouTuber Brad Lynch managed to get ahold of a screenshot from a registered user, revealing that Varjo Aero + Galea kit appears to be priced at $22,500, putting it well out of the range of a consumer. Shipping is apparently happening over the course of five batches, which begin with the earliest estimated ship date of August 2023.

OpenBCI initially announced Galea back in late 2020, a hardware and software platform that’s designed to merge its brain-computer interface tech with XR headsets.

It’s an area of research that many companies are looking towards (such as Valve) in the hopes that such non-invasive devices could provide a host of new data. Knowing how a person reacts in real-time to virtual stimulus could give developers in the future more ways of serving up dynamic content.

Since then, the Brooklyn, New York-based company says it’s attracted beta applicants spanning consumer technology, healthcare, research, training, and gaming & interactive media. Now Finnish XR headset creator Varjo, known for its exceptionally high-resolution headsets primarily meant for enterprise, is shipping out its Aero virtual reality headset with Galea’s beta system, neatly packed into the headset’s strap.

Image courtesy Varjo, OpenBCI

Galea is said to include a suite of sensors including electroencephalogram (EEG), electrooculography (EOG) electromyography (EMG), electrodermal activity (EDA), and photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors, which are intended to measure data from the user’s brain, eyes, heart, skin, and muscles.

Varjo Aero is a pared down version of the company’s latest headset which offers industry-leading fidelity and advanced features for a cheaper (re: not cheap) price that makes the company’s offering more attractive to medium-sized businesses and wealthy VR enthusiasts. Without Galea, Aero is priced at $2,000 and features no annual fee—a far cry from the company’s previous enterprise headsets that range from $3,200–$5,500 (plus an $800–$1,500 annual fee).

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OpenBCI and Varjo are opening pre-orders starting today, May 31st, specifically appealing to companies, developers, and researchers who have already applied to the Galea Beta Program. The headset-BCI combo is said include SDKs with ready-to-use building blocks for accessing the sensor data inside of Unity, Python, and several other common development environments.

Provided there are any units left after pre-orders, the companies will open up sale to the general public on July 1st, 2022. It’s not certain what price the companies intend to levy on the BCI-capable Aero though (see update).

Read our review of Varjo Aero here and check out the full specs below for the headset (sans Galea):

Varjo Aero Specs

Resolution 2,880 x 2,720 (7.8MP) per-eye, mini-LED LCD (2x)
Refresh Rate 90Hz
Lenses Aspheric
Field-of-view (claimed) 134° diagonal, 115° horizontal (at 12mm eye-relief)
Optical Adjustments IPD (automatic motor driven)
IPD Adjustment Range 57–73mm
Connectors USB-C → breakout box (USB-A 3.0, DisplayPort 1.4)
Cable Length 5m
Tracking SteamVR Tracking 1.0 or 2.0 (external beacons)
On-board cameras 2x eye-tracking
Input None included (supports SteamVR controllers)
Audio 3.5mm aux port
Microphone None (supports external mic through aux port)
Pass-through view No
Weight 487g + 230g headstrap with counterweight

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  • Engorged

    Wow these are some crazy news! BCIs and VR is a match made in heaven.

  • kontis

    As John Carmack said, the way to go for BCI and XR for consumers at first should be the cheapest and least bulky/invasive system to achieve literally 1-bit input (yes, only a single 1 or 0 switch!).

    Why?

    It would completely revolutionize eye tracking and UI/UX in any XR system. It would even be revolutionary for normal smartphone or PC use (if you could somehow get that 1-bit input without wearing crazy gear…)

    How?

    It’s simple. When you want to use eye tracking to do interactive stuff, like pressing a button (or shooting a gun at something), you need some kind of confirmation of action, either a blink (unreliable and irritating) or doing something with your hand/fingers. Both options are lame and hugely degrade the value of eye tracking for interactivity making it almost completely pointless. But if you can just think that you choose the option you are looking at, it changes the game completely.


    tl;dr a 1-bit BCI could replace the mouse-click/finger tap and would be one of the biggest revolutions in history of user interfaces.

    • NL_VR

      verry well said,

    • Boris Kazachenko

      “either a blink (unreliable and irritating) or doing something with your hand/fingers. Both options are lame and hugely degrade the value of eye tracking for interactivity making it almost completely pointless.”

      How about that wristband that Meta is developing? It is supposed to be an interface to neuro-muscular junctions, far faster and more subtle than actual clicking and more practical than BCI?

      • Karl9

        How it’s more practical? For VR you already have a device on your head, and if this device just read one command from your brain should be achievable.
        Also if one signal could be reliably read from brain it would open door for RnD of many more advanced stuff.

        • Boris Kazachenko

          It’s far easier to read the signal from the wrist than from the brain. Not even comparable with current tech.

  • Ookami

    Hopefully Thrillseeker makes a vid about this. Those are always a lot of fun

  • Cragheart

    Non-invasive BCIs won’t work very well.