Most Virtual Reality (VR) headset screens still show a blurred image, but the Finnish company Varjo has an unusual approach to change that. The industrial VR-1 headset shipped today combines a super high-resolution center panel with an ordinary screen for peripheral vision. It is designed to deliver images that look almost real, albeit with some limitations and a price tag that will probably only be paid for by professionals. Varjo is ideal to view 3D configurators.

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The VR-1 calls its central control panel a “Bionic Display”. It is a 1920 x 1080 “micro-OLED” display with a resolution of 3,000 pixels per inch. (In connection with this, the high-resolution prototype display from Google and LG had 1443 ppi last year). Within this central strip, the images should correspond approximately to the resolution of the human eye. Ars Technica says, for example, that this headset “looks about as detailed as in real life”. Outside this super-sharp panel, there is a 1440 x 1600 display that produces images of medium quality.

The VR-1 offers almost real looking pictures, with some practical compromises.

The VR-1’s overall field of view is smaller than that of the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, not to mention the 200 degrees that Pimax’s experimental VR headset has to offer. The Bionic display is only a part of it. Ars Technica describes excellent picture quality as you look straight ahead, with a noticeable downgrade. And rendering this high-resolution slice requires more processing power than you need for average VR headsets that are already quite demanding.

Varjo doesn’t try to develop a headset for totally immersive entertainment. It solves specific problems for business customers, such as car designers who need to examine fine details on a full-size vehicle model, or pilots who use flight simulators with many small buttons.

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In addition to its high resolution, the VR-1 has eye tracking, which is still a premium feature for a VR headset. And Varjo is planning to launch a camera-equipped front panel that can send video directly to the headset and turn it into a mixed reality device.

The VR-1 uses standard SteamVR base stations for tracking and supports both Unity and the Unreal engine, so you can theoretically play games or use other entertainment software. But the headset is not affordable for consumers. It costs $5,995 at an annual service fee of $995, and Varjo points out that it is “only available to businesses and academic institutions. The company already works with Airbus, Audi, Saab, Volkswagen and Volvo, among others.

Consumers will not necessarily see this dual-display configuration in future headsets. It comes with some clear compromises, and manufacturers of consumer headsets seem to be focusing on high-resolution panels. But the VR-1 is a fascinating system to offer an incredibly good picture quality with modern technology. For anyone else who wants to buy the headset, it is available in 34 countries in North America, Europe and Hong Kong.

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