Vality Building Compact VR Headset with Ultra-High-Resolution Display
Germany-based startup Vality is developing lightweight and compact virtual reality headset that will offer users ultra-high near-retina resolution although the design compromises on the field-of-view. Vality wants to make the headset more comfortable while also drastically reducing the size but within a compact form-factor.
Vality was founded in 2018 in the German town of Erbach. The company gave the virtual reality news website Road to VR an early prototype of the VR headset. It has managed to realize a compact form factor, very high resolution as well as relatively low weight of approximately 200 grams through use of micro-displays and multi-element lenses. The disadvantage with this technique is that it results in a virtual reality headset that is costlier than the conventional virtual reality technology and whose field-of-view is comparatively smaller.
Even the trendiest virtual reality headsets are unable to realize a compact form factor and have the ‘box on your face’ feel due to the use of the macro-displays as well as relatively less complex optics that require some minimum distance from the displays to realize a sharp focus. This conventional and straightforward design also lowers the cost of production and helps realize a wider field-of-view. However, it trades off both the size and the resolution.
The Vality approach relies on micro-displays with more complex high-magnification optics and achieves just the opposite. It makes it possible to shorten the optical path for a more compact form factor. It also makes it possible to realize ultra-high resolution due to the high pixel density created by the micro-displays. Vality approach however sacrifices the field of view and results in higher costs.
Vality is going after the market for compact and comfortable headsets with ultra-high resolution, mainly the enterprise customers. The startup has already developed the prototype which is a proof of concept of its design. The first product will hit the market only in the first quarter of 2021 so it is still a long way but the form factor achieved in the prototype is quite something. Vality is planning to add more features and improvements to the prototype in a bid to refine the design.
The headset is relatively lightweight at 200 grams which is less than half the weight of current headsets such as the HTC Vive and the original Oculus Rift. According to Vality, the final product could even be lighter than 150 grams.
Currently, the Vality prototype only offers 3DOF tracking. The startup is however planning for full 6DOF tracking with inside-out tracking functionality. Vality has also confirmed that it has developed controllers for the headset though it hasn’t shown them yet.
The Vality prototype deploys 2K x 2K micro-displays that provide 36 PPD (pixels per degree) across the headset’s 80 x 80-degree field-of-view. According to the company, the final version will have not only high-resolution displays but also slightly larger field of view of about 85 x 85 degrees that will ultimately deliver 46 PPD.
This will be a very high pixel density performance. It is approximately twice the pixel density offered by the high-end virtual reality headset HP Reverb. In terms of its resolution power, the headset will be very close to the retinal resolution. The retinal resolution refers to the amount of pixel density that is required to match or exceed the resolving power of the human eye. According to the Germany-based startup, its headset will provide something very close to a retinal resolution which delivers roughly 60 PPD.
The headset provides an extremely sharp view. From the demo, it offers an impressively sharp resolution even though there are some issues that will be refined in the future before it hits the market. The sharpness was seen across most of the field of view and not just at the center of the lens.
Apart from the sharpness factor, it also provides very bright images thanks to the multi-element lenses that give very efficient light transmission. Vality is, however, yet to implement low-persistence in the headset design which helps cut down on the motion-blur by pulsing the backlight. The prototype design currently runs on 60Hz and the final version of the headset will run either on 90Hz or 120Hz. It is not yet clear whether the final headset design will have an edge in brightness over other headset models as the prototype will still be refined further and the technical specs of the final product is not yet known.
The field of view in the final product will be 85 x 85 degrees which is still smaller than that of the bulkier VR headsets. For comparison, Oculus Rift S has an FOV of about 100 degrees while the Valve Index has an FOV of 130 degrees. Because of this, the new Vality virtual reality headsets will be ideal for virtual experiences where the high pixel density advantage will be more important than high immersion for the experience. This would make it ideal for applications such as training and simulators where it is more important for a user to catch the fine details and distant objects such as reading small text.
The headset will be best suited for enterprise applications. Vality expects the finished version of its virtual reality headset to go for about $1,000 which is within the price spectrum of other high-end VR headsets such as the HTC Vive Pro and Valve Index.
Apart from its tethered PC functionality, the Vality headset will also provide users with an SKU that will include a mobile ‘belt-pack’ to enable the pairing of the device with a mobile computer package just like with the Magic Leap One headsets. The startup believes that this mobile version will have a wider appeal for multiple use-cases than the PC version which has less portability. Both versions will however rely on the same headset and will connect to the respective computing devices through a VirtualLink adapter.
Apart from delivering the headset, the Germany-based startup is also keen on delivering an enterprise app platform for virtual reality which will make it easier for businesses and other enterprises users to easily discover apps for the Vality headset.
Below is an early peek into the Vality headset prototype. The finished version is expected to hit the market in the first quarter of 2021. The company has allowed itself enough time to continue refining and improving the product into a final headset that will meet and surpass user expectations in 2021, a time when we expect other brands to also roll out new generation devices that will take the VR experience to a whole new level.