Plethora of VR Headsets Shown at CES 2018
January 22, 2018
We reported recently that despite aggressive forecasts by virtually all market researchers, volume in 2017 was 6.2m, which was 20% lower than Trendforce’s forecast and they were on the low end. Moreover, the majority of shipments were the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream that don’t require imbedded displays. The challenges for VR in 2018 vary but most believe VR is still waiting to become useful. We have nice headsets and they’re getting more affordable, but even the most stalwart VR fanatics are still trying to figure out exactly what to use it for. No one application will singlehandedly transform VR from novelty to living-room staple, but at CES 2018, there were few clever new VR technologies:
Improves on the original Vive, but maintains backward compatibility
Believe it or not, it’s been almost two years since the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift had their full, final retail releases! Two years!
It’s time for an update, and Vive is the first out of the gate with its new Vive Pro. The headset increases the pixel count by 78 percent, hitting 2,880 x 1,660. That crams in 615 pixels per inch. HTC says fine text is finally readable, something that just wasn’t possible before.
The Vive Pro also includes built-in headphones with an amplifier, dual microphones, and a redesigned strap that HTC promises will make the headset more comfortable for people with glasses. It’s a big step forward all around.
Plus, it’s (optionally) wireless. HTC announced a new wireless adapter that works over Intel’s 60GHz WiGig standard. It works with both the Vive Pro and the original Vive. A battery pack is added to the Vive or Vive Pro for wireless use.
There’s no pricing or release date for the Vive Pro yet, but HTC has promised that it’ll be backward compatible with existing hardware, like the Base station 1.0. We’re eagerly awaiting more information. This sounds like the headset we’ve been waiting for.
Figure 1: HTC’s Vive
Tracks the eyes and brain in VR Websites like Digital Trends have a complex set of analytics tools that examines everything. Provides statistics on headlines in real time. Looxid uses eye tracking to apply this insane Type-A level of perfection to virtual reality. As users explore an environment — like a museum — in VR, the headset tracks both the eyes and brain activity, using an imposing set of electrodes embedded in the headband. The eye tracking can tell where attention is paid and the electrodes can tell what effect those stimuli have. Is the statue interesting, boring or scary?
By incorporating brain activity, Looxid could help usher in an age of analytics that makes even today’s impressive web analytics look primitive. Remember that Black Mirror episode about a VR simulation that realizes your worst fears? This is a step in that direction, though we hope it’ll be less terrifying use.
Figure 2: Looxid
Pimax 8K VR headset
The highest-resolution VR headset available, with two 4K displays up against the face. But the most important innovation is in the realm of field of view. The Pimax headset has a super-wide 200-degree field of view, which is much wider than other VR headsets on the market. The 200 degrees gets this headset closer to the 220 degree natural field of view of the human eye, meaning VR experiences feel that much more immersive. The headset uses a rubber head strap that is pretty uncomfortable and didn’t really work with glasses. So while the technology is there, the overall experience still feels more like a prototype than a market-ready product. The Pimax headset still doesn’t have a price or release date.
Figure 3: Primax 8K VR Headset
Turns CAD drawings into VR prototypes. It’s hard to imagine what something sketched on paper will look like in real life. That’s why manufacturers build prototypes, even at great expense. The rise of 3D printing has helped reduce the cost of this time-consuming process, but there are limits. That’s why automakers like Ford began using VR to prototype car designs long before VR was even mainstream. Using physical “bucks” that simulate the interior of a vehicle and VR headsets, designers can preview how changes to the design of a car will affect the way it feels to sit in it. Will dropping the roofline make it harder to see out the back? Are those mirrors far enough forward?
Meshroom brings the benefits of this multimillion-dollar setup to smaller makers. Simply upload a CAD drawing, and Meshroom converts it to a one-to-one scale model you can interact with in VR. You can walk around a virtual product to examine it from every angle, move it with controllers, and even skin it with realistic textures that you can customize on the fly, all in VR.
At $2,700 for a one-year license, it’s not cheap, but maybe your next Kickstarter will benefit from a VR prototype before that first botched batch arrives from China.
Figure 4: Meshroom
The 3dRudder is a clever, intuitive way to explore in three dimensions. It’s basically a balance board that works like a joystick for the feet. Roll it forward, and it goes forward. Roll it back, and it goes back. The first version of the device has been around for about a year, but a new version shown at CES 2018 introduces “wings” that add yet another degree of freedom. Besides locking feet to the pad, they serve as additional inputs. Tilting one foot up and one foot down can move you up and down in virtual space, giving you four degrees of freedom. Space sims are an obvious fit for a device like this, but 3dRudder also works with a number of first-person shooters, like Doom VFR and Fallout 4, so roam around while keeping both hands free for controllers.
Figure 5: 3D Rudder