VRgineers, a Czech-based startup building enterprise VR headsets, today revealed their new ‘XTAL’ headset, an improved version of their prior VRHero “5K” headset, which is smaller, lighter, and builds Leap Motion’s hand tracking tech directly into the headset.

When I got a good look at the VRHero headset back in February, I was impressed with the device’s impressive visual clarity and wide field of view, but couldn’t ignore the impact that its bulk had on immersion and practicality of use. While the company has stated clearly that peak visual quality is their top priority, even at the expense of factors like ergonomics, they’re now shrinking the headset down to be a little more practical to use.

Side by side with its predecessor, XTAL (left) cuts some bulk from VRHero (right). | Image courtesy VRgineers

The latest version of their headset, dubbed XTAL, reduces weight by 12% over its predecessor, and reduces the impact of leverage and inertia by reducing the size of the housing; XTAL weighs in at 770 grams (compare to the Vive Pro at 550 grams, according to VRgineers).

As with the prior VRHero headset, XTAL features a pair of 2,560 × 1,440 OLED displays, achieving a claimed 170 degree field of view. New to XTAL is an automatic IPD adjustment which the company is calling AutoEye, which allows the headset to detect the width between the users eyes and adjust the distance between the lenses to match.

Image courtesy VRgineers

The prior VRHero headset had manual per-eye adjustment of both IPD and focus, and I found it difficult to adjust the headset in a way that my eyes felt was perfectly comfortable (granted, there was no calibration process, and self-calibrating IPD with no measurement is notoriously challenging). There’s hope that AutoEye will help make long term of the headset more comfortable on the eyes. AutoEye would suggest other eye-tracking capabilities, but the company hasn’t said exactly how the feature works.

Image courtesy VRgineers

XTAL also builds Leap Motion’s hand-tracking module directly into the headset, enabling hand-tracking in a 180 × 180 degree area, central to the direction the headset is facing.

XTAL houses a pair of cameras and IR emitters for Leap Motion hand-tracking | Image courtesy VRgineers

VRgineers is building XTAL for the professional and enterprise sectors, specifically for applications which require maximum visual fidelity, like design and engineering. In addition to reduced weight, size, and new features, XTAL also marks a significant cost reduction, bringing the price down to $5,800, compared to the $9,000 of the prior VRHero headset. The company is taking orders for XTAL as of today, and expects to begin shipping in September.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Ian Shook

    That’s a lot of dollarydoos.

  • GunnyNinja

    For $5800 I’ll just go do it for real…

    • Laurence Nairne

      It’s not a ‘go do things in VR’ type headset in the sense you’re thinking. It’s a ‘go learn to do stuff virtually that is otherwise expensive or dangerous to fuck up’. In that sense it is still a cost saving for many industries where expense and danger are very prominent risks in training new staff.

      • GunnyNinja

        So, just like every other HMD, just more expensive…

        • Laurence Nairne

          I’d love to disagree with you but yes, exactly.

          But that is how ‘for the enterprise’ works. Google did did pretty much the same thing with Glass.

  • Lucidfeuer

    That’s a nice headset specs-wise, but the horrible strap ergonomic and weight are a no-go for me. Waiting to see how they will iterate, but I don’t understand if AutoEye is actually an eye-tracker which would be a nice basic added feature besides Leapmo.

    • Laurence Nairne

      It’s like a crown of thorns.

    • Master E

      Sometimes I wonder if these weighty HMDs are techs answer to text neck. Works the entirely opposite muscle groups.

  • sfmike

    Wait for the mass production version. Shows the future though.

  • JJ

    So get this. My friends are at VRX today where they showed this off, and if you want the headset to be tracked in space you have to use their special lighthouses that are 10k per lighthouse!!!!!!!! they had four of them.

    • themobiledivide

      Obviously there is a small market for this stuff but you have to assume they are going all in on patents and niche enterprise. For a multi-million dollar project you have to figure that $50 000 is not a bad cost. Think of Hollywood blockbusters where they use multiple $30 000 RED cameras, a unit like this might make sense for on set visualization. A Samsung Odyssey or a Vive Pro would probably be pretty close at 1/100 of the price.

      • JJ

        Well as someone who works specifically in the enterprise market of vr, I can tell you that slightly higher prices are fine, but something 100X the price of its competitor, isn’t going to fly when you’re going out to buy 10-50+ headsets for a project or business.

        • Marek

          Hi guys, just an additional info. It is completely true what JJ said, we showcased at VRX with ART. It is an enterprise optical tracking, which is considered one of the most most accurate and reliable. That is the reason why it is used by most of car manufacturers. However, Xtal also supports Lighthouse 2.0, Optitrack and for example StarTrack.
          Please let me know if you think we should implement native support for some other trackings.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          If you think $5000 is a high price for a good industrial/business VR-headset, then you’re not in the actual enterprise market of vr for designing, more for entertainment..

    • Master E

      Well… if it exists one day it’ll be cheap old tech and as of right now I’m just glad that this is possible and the threshold is being pushed every day. The uncanny valley is one step closer!

  • Zerofool

    Still 70Hz like the previous one? I hope they would go for higher refresh-rate in the future like 120Hz, now that HDMI 2.1 is on the horizon.
    Anyways, it’s nice to see all kinds of improvement – in the end, the industry benefits as a whole (unless everyone decides to patent-lock all their innovations).

    • Marek

      Hello Zerofool, yes we will go for higher refresh-rate in fuure. My favorite communication standard will be DisplayPort 1.4 :-)

      • Zerofool

        I’m a DisplayPort fan myself, I hate “HDMI Licensing” because in my eyes they are the main reason gaming in 3D was not successful. They only defined 720p60 and 1080p24 as mandatory 3D modes which basically guaranteed its demise and opened the door for proprietary hw/sw solutions like Nvidia 3D Vision. If a mandatory 1080p60 3D mode existed (as part of the HDMI 1.4 specs for example), I strongly believe that more gamers would have experienced it and would have become believers. Still, probably not enough to avoid the failure of 3DTVs altogether because consumers in general are dumb :) and because the main selling point by the manufacturers was watching 3D movies (that are produced with IMAX-sized screens in mind in terms of stereo separation), which let’s face it, is an underwhelming experience (especially compared to an IMAX theater). Don’t get me wrong, I still prefer watching a 3D Blu-Ray over a regular 2D Blu-Ray, or even a UHD HDR one.

        Anyways, I mentioned HDMI 2.1 mainly because of the issues Pimax has achieving 90Hz on their “8K” model with DP 1.3/1.4, which I wrongly believed to be cause by the Analogix bridge chip, but after looking more closely into the matter, it seems the culprit is in the upscaling chip they’re using. Their “5K” model allegedly works perfectly fine at 90Hz with the same Analogix chipset.
        So, if you can squeeze higher refresh-rate out of DP 1.4, that would be great! I look forward to hearing more about your progress in the upcoming iterations of the headset!

        • Marek

          Same here, I also prefer DP over the HDMI. Because of bandwidth, configurability, MST (multi stream) and connector with locks :-) I admire your knowledge regarding video standarts.

          As you say, one thing is protocol with cable, and the other is converter chip. With DP 1.3/1.4 you are able to run this “5K” on 120 Hz, but with “8K” it is problematic without color compression or picture upscaling.

          We even have multiple 4K display samples operational in our development lab, however their pixel grid and color accuracy are not satisfactory for us.

          We will do our best to push the limits and boost the frequency.. Thank you for your support!

  • oompah

    still a box strapped to ur face
    All u need is a spectacles like device
    that uses optical waveguides to project
    images on the glasses from sides

    • Laurence Nairne

      If it’s that easy, get funding, make a startup and build it.

      • Gus Bisbal

        Well said. I am sick of people who have never built and launch anything telling people who are doing it how it should be done. A bunch of teenagers watching porn, telling me how to f@#$…. honestly

        • Marek

          Thank you, as you say, it is not that easy to build a headset and I am happy to have my back covered by you. I can promise you, that we are working hard to improve all the aspects of our headset.

  • VR is niche at this point, and these goggles are a niche in a niche, ’cause their price is a Bi……, er, bit too much…

    • Yoshi Kato

      I agree. Of course, they’re marketing them to businesses, so they can get away with inflated prices.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Sorry, but you’re coming from a consumers view, VR headsets have always been around and the professional/industrial version always did cost well beyond the $5000 mark, so for that market it’s ‘cheap’.

      • A computer used to cost 5 million dollars and occupy an entire room. When is the last time YOUR business paid $5 Million for a basic computer? Progress has rendered your viewpoint archaic.

        Also there’s such a thing as a JOKE. It was FUNNY!

      • dsadas

        what do you mean they have always been around? pretty sure they have not been around for more than a few years. Don’t call those 2 headsets from 90’s as vr.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          I guess you haven’t got a clue on the history of VR, for you it propably just started when Palmer Luckey reared his head..
          And yes the Forte VFX-1 certainly is a VR headset, it’s even more comfortable than most of the current headsets, but there were many more, especially for the industry..

  • Peter Hansen

    So, since when does the Leap Motion sensor has a 180° field of view? Just curious, this is completely new to me.

  • Yoshi Kato

    I would be interested in how comfortable this headset would be to use long term. I can only spend a limited amount of time in the headsets that are currently on the market today because of eye strain.

  • uu