The XTAL 5K HMD by Prague-based VRgineers.
Prague-based VRgineers introduced its newest virtual reality headset for professional use at the VRX Immersive Enterprise Expo in Boston on June 26th & 27th, cementing in its first mover advantage over giants like Acer, Samsung and HTC in the high-end VR market. The new XTAL headset features 5K resolution, 170º field-of-view (FoV), and patented non-Fresnel lenses.
XTAL is also the world’s first headset on the market to feature an embedded Leap Motion sensor. Their highly accurate, integrated 180x180º hand-tracking lets users use their hands to interact with the VR scene freely without the need for controllers.
“XTAL is short for ‘crystal,’ ” notes Martin Holecko, one of the VRgineers co-founders. “It symbolizes the new crystal-like polygonal structure of the headset and our obsession with a crystal-clear image in VR.”
The headset also enables voice commands through its built-in microphone and voice recognition software. With the XTAL, VRgineers also introduces its proprietary AutoEye technology, which automatically aligns lens positions with the user’s eyes. Fast and accurate IPD (interpupillary distance) settings are especially useful for optimal image quality and in multi-user environments.
VRgineers specializes in high-end head-mounted displays (HMDs) for professional designers, engineers, employee training, and simulations. I tried their first HMD, the $9,000 VRHero 5K Plus, several months ago. I was astonished by the powerful 5K visual experience. The new headset is slightly heavier than my everyday Vive rig. The new XTAL headset weighs 1.7 lbs (770g) including the Leap Motion sensors. By comparison, Vive Pro weighs, 1.3 lbs (600g) with a Leap Motion sensor attached.
XTAL is solving the problem of precision in VR assisted 3D design.
I explored two demos wearing the VRgineers VRHero. The first allowed me to navigate around a house constructed with astonishing detail. The 5K OLED screens are amazing, providing true 3D clarity and depth. As I looked at the spines of the books on the shelf in the den, I could read their titles. I felt like I could reach out and open one. I was also able to experience a new BMW convertible. When I sat down it was like being in the cockpit of the car. The illusion was so convincing that when I wanted to get out I looked for the handle.
One of the most remarkable things about VRgineers is that with just $1.5M in funding the Czech company beat much larger competitors like Acer (majority owner of StarVR) and Pimax, to the high-end enterprise market, and not just by a little bit. StarVR is clearly targeting the location-based entertainment market and publishes games optimized for its platform for use in retail VR. The Starbreeze website mentions enterprise but, clearly, Starbreeze Studios targets VRcades with partners like IMAX or Sega.
Meanwhile, Pimax, whose impressive 4M Kickstarter was followed by an even more impressive 15M Series A round, is just now going into production. The only higher-res headsets currently selling are HTC Vive Pro and Samsung Odyssey, but this something of a different category as the headsets have over one third less resolution and one third smaller field-of-view than XTAL, but are also a third of the price.
With built-in Leap Motion hand precision hand tracking controllers are not needed.
VRgineers worked quickly to cement different kinds of partnerships with Autodesk, Dassault Systemes, and ESI in order to make their software work with the XTAL. XTAL is also optimized for NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs, making capable of handling highly complex VR projects such as auto design, where an error of even .05 CM can be catastrophic.
“VR for professional use is broadly gaining traction,” says David Weinstein, Director of Enterprise VR at NVIDIA. “When creating a product prototype or architectural plan you really need to see the details in your design, and that precision and clarity really comes through in the VRgineers headset’s high-resolution display combined with NVIDIA Quadro professional GPUs.”
Skoda Auto is part of the VW group but an independent brand which uses the Hero for internal design and development. Leoš Červený, who heads Virtual Reality for the design group, told me in an email: “We have been using VR for 20 years in Skoda Auto, and today, this technology moves from large VR studies directly to the workplace of a designer or stylist.”
“For Škoda Auto engineers, it is crucial in the design and revision process to display the digital model of the car in the highest true-to-life image quality possible with a corresponding field-of-view. This allows us to evaluate the smallest details. The design must be bulletproof.”
“We use the Hero in the Car Styling department when we present virtual car concepts and new models. The Hero is the only practical high resolution (5K) VR headset. For example, when evaluating a car interior it is necessary to be able to read all text on dashboard or buttons. With HTC Vive that’s not possible. XTAL for the automotive industry today is a necessity. There is no margin for error.” Cereny concluded.
“The two big differentiators for us,” adds Holecko, “are the crystal clarity of the optics and the drop in price from $9,000 for the Hero to $5,800 for the XTAL, which makes it more accessible for independent studios, architects, and designers.
“The VRgineers headset is a great HMD experience for professionals seeking the highest quality. I imagine that everybody working with high-end visualization tools and VR to support the development and decision-making process can benefit from a high resolution, best-integrated device. It makes it easy to build and use great VR applications for the business purpose of your choice,” added Jan Pflueger, Coordinator of the Center of Competence for Augmented and Virtual Reality, Audi AG, which also uses the VRgineers Hero 5K HMD.
The new XTAL headset is available now for purchase in the U.S. for the price of $5,800 and will start shipping in September. Orders can be placed at the VRgineers.com website.