The XR Week Peek (2023.12.04): Varjo announces XR-4 headset, Quest 2 sells much more than Quest 3, and more!

I’m back to Italy after my trip to Helsinki! I’m happy to be back to my Pasta-land, but I have to admit that I had such a good time in the Slush-land that I’m a bit sad I’m not there anymore. The fun thing is that I saw snow all the days in Helsinki, and now that I’m back to my lovely Turin… it has snowed here, too! Is snow following me?
 Anyway, let’s have a look at the most relevant XR news of the past week!

Top news of the week

(Image by Varjo)

Varjo has announced the XR-4 headset

Finnish company Varjo has just announced its latest device: Varjo XR-4, a very high-end mixed reality headset. According to the company, these are the biggest improvements with regard to the previous version:

  • Dual 4K x 4K displays with a resolution of 51 pixels per degree (PPD) and over 50% wider field of view (120°x 105°) compared to previous-generation devices, with double the display brightness (200 nits) and wider color gamut with 96% DCI-P3
  • Dual 20 Mpx cameras for powering the industry’s highest-fidelity, real-time photorealistic video pass-through mixed reality
  • New ambient light sensors and 8 x improved LiDAR resolution compared to Varjo XR-3 that seamlessly blends real and virtual elements
  • Built-in DTS 3D spatial audio with noise-canceling mics and integrated speakers for collaborative use cases
  • Inside-out tracking and in-box Varjo Controllers, powered by Razer, provide precise interactions with high tactile immersion and reduce setup complexity and cost

The headset is capable of very high-resolution passthrough AR and VR, depending on the requirement of the user. It is relevant that for the first time, a Varjo headset is adding integrated audio and integrated controllers. The headset works out-of-the-box with inside-out tracking, but an add-on for SteamVR is available.

The headset is on sale in three flavors:

  • The standard one, priced at €3,990. This seems like a lot of money, but it is half of the price of the previous version, and it doesn’t need an additional monthly subscription
  • The “Focal edition”, basically optimizes the mixed reality cameras’ resolution and also makes them focus on the same things you are looking at with your eyes, creating a very realistic passthrough effect. Its price is €9,990
  • The “Secure Edition”, complies with all the highest safety guidelines. It can go completely offline and is TAA-compliant and non-RF. This headset costs €7,990 for the standard version and €13,990 for the focal edition.

Varjo XR-4 is on sale for enterprises, but the company has also opened up a waiting list for interested consumers (especially simulator fans, I guess). It’s good to see a company proposing a PCVR headset on the very high end, that gives us a glimpse of how VR can be on the consumer side in a few years.

More info (Varjo launches XR-4 headset)
More info (Varjo’s launch on Road To VR)
More info (Varjo opens up waiting list for consumers)

Other relevant news

Quest 3 is selling well, but Quest 2 much better

Quest 3 sales are not going bad, and the headset, after Black Friday, has now already 5% of the shares of devices on the SteamVR survey. This shows that the sales were good among us VR techies… I myself have stopped using the Quest 2 and almost always use the Quest 3 now.
 But things on the consumers’ side may not be going as well: according to some data scrapped from Amazon, the Quest 2 outsold the Quest 3 by a factor of 3:1 in the last 30 days. THREE TO ONE. The reason for that is simple: Quest 2 costs half of the Quest 3, and this Black Friday also had a $50 Store credit included with the purchase. People have bought the headset only by looking at the price.
 This makes me also speculate that my prediction of people not interested in mixed reality was correct. If people perceived Mixed Reality, which is the huge added value of Quest 3, as very important, they would have easily paid $250 more for it. But since they have no idea why they should be interested in that (because there is no “killer application” for it), they keep buying the cheaper VR headset.
 These sales data are a bit worrying for us developers in a way: if people keep buying the Quest 2 instead of Quest 3, the market shares of Quest 2 will be bigger, so many developers will be tempted to use Quest 2 as the main target headset, and so they won’t make their graphics richer to comply with the new horsepower of the Quest 3.

More info (Quest 3 going ok in Steam Hardware Survey)
More info (Quest 2 selling much better than Quest 3 on Amazon)

HTC announced the Vive Ultimate Tracker

Finally, HTC has officially announced the Vive Ultimate Tracker, its standalone inside-out tracker unit. The Vive Ultimate Tracker is like a Vive Tracker, but it tracks its pose using two onboard cameras, not requiring any SteamVR base station. It is ideal to provide full body tracking (for social VR like VRChat), or object tracking (for enterprise use cases) to standalone headsets like the Vive XR Elite.
 Every tracker costs $200, and a set of trackers requires a Vive Wireless Dongle ($39 MSRP) to be attached to the headset. Vive offers also various bundles to spare some money while buying it. For instance, it is offering a $1500 bundle that includes a VIVE XR Elite headset ($1,000 MSRP), 3 Vive Ultimate Trackers, 1 Wireless Dongle, a Dance Dash download key, and TrackStraps to attach the trackers to your body.
 All of this is very cool, but remember that currently, this device is compatible only with Vive XR Elite. HTC is working on compatibility with other headsets, but nothing has been announced yet. If no compatibility with Quest is possible, then this will be a missed opportunity to provide highly reliable full-body tracking for the biggest VR market.

More info (HTC Vive Ultimate Tracker — Road To VR)
More info (HTC Vive Ultimate Tracker — Upload VR)

Out of the blue, Valve has launched Steam Link, which basically is… Oculus Air Link offered directly by SteamVR. Steam Link lets you connect your Quest directly via wireless connection to SteamVR, without going through the Meta Quest PC runtime anymore. This is much more efficient because it prevents Steam from going through another runtime (which is also half-abandoned) to provide VR to the Quest.
 This solution to work requires the user to launch a special Valve application on the Quest and enter there a pairing code that the SteamVR runtime provides. This surprisingly means that Meta has approved on the Quest Store this app that lets people play SteamVR games bypassing the PC Quest runtime. To me, this is a sign that Meta doesn’t care about PCVR at all anymore, and so it lets Valve do what it wants.
 Virtual Desktop Guy Godin commented on the news saying that he is not worried much by Steam Link, since his software offers many more functionalities, and it also works with the Meta PC runtime games (e.g. Lone Echo).
 It’s interesting that someone has already started modifying this application, and a guy already obtained a version that works just with hand tracking and no controllers.

More info (Valve launches Steam Link — Road To VR)
More info (Valve launches Steam Link — Upload VR)
More info (Guy Godin comments the news)
More info (Upload’s editorial on Meta approving this app on Quest Store)
More info (Modified Quest Link for hand tracking)

News worth a mention

(Image by Meta)

Quest 3 is not getting a price cut soon

Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth just stated that the Quest 3 is not going to have any price cut for the foreseeable future. The reason is that the current price already gives Meta no gain over any sold headset (or it may even give a loss), so the company can not reduce it anymore.

More info

Apple Vision Pro offers an incredible hand segmentation

A leaked screenshot from an Apple Vision Pro devkit shows how the Vision Pro is able to show almost perfectly the hand of the user above virtual content. This would show the level of polish of the upcoming Apple headset.

More info

LivingCities shuts down

Last year, LivingCities was announced as one of the most promising startups out there, having the mission of bridging the real and the virtual world, making physical and virtual people interact together as if they were in the same place. Unluckily, the project proved to be too ambitious for a moment of low investments in XR like the current one, and this week, CEO Matt Miesnieks announced its end. I wish the best to the three people of the stellar founding team, I’m sure they will do something else cool in the future.

More info

Discover the UX details of Half-Life: Alyx

Road To VR’s Ben Lang has examined some of the UX details that make Half-Life: Alyx appear so polished and so immersive and wrote a very interesting article describing them all. I just warn you that reading this post will make you want to play Alyx again, so be careful!

More info

A Universal Unity VR injector may be in the works, or maybe not

Raicuparta has just added an old simple Universal Unity VR Mod tool to its Rai Pal tool. In the Discord message where he talks about the project, he states that it is an old tool, but maybe he could decide to improve it to become something that can automatically mod any Unity application to become VR-compatible. He doesn’t seem sure he is going to do that, but even the vague statement was enough to generate a lot of hype on Reddit from the PC VR community, that can’t wait to have new content to play on. If all the existing flatscreen Unity games could become VR-compatible, that would be huge. But for now, we are not sure at all this is going to happen.

More info (Statement by Raicuparta)
More info (Hype on Reddit about an eventual Unity VR mod tool)
More info (Explanation of why we should wait before hyping)

Discover the winners of the VR Awards

The VR Awards ceremony happened the past week, so now you can read the names of all the winners. Compliments to all the teams that brought an award home!

More info

Pico extends the Black Friday content offer

Pico has just extended a part of its Black Friday offer: until January, 14th, every new purchase of a Pico 4 unit will come with 3 free games worth around €100: Green Hell VR, Warplanes: Battles over Pacific, and Arizona Sunshine 2.

More info

Some news on content

  • The official VR mode for Resident Evil 4 remake is coming to PSVR 2 on December 8th
  • Toy Trains is a chill miniature trains game developed by some SuperHot developers. It is being released on January, 16th
  • UK Comedy Show Taskmaster is getting a VR game in 2024
  • A new trailer shows the graphics of Arizona Sunshine 2 on Quest 2
  • Mecha Force is a new upcoming mech game with a target release date of 2024
  • Perp Games’s MADiSON may be one of the scariest VR games ever released
  • Prepare To Dive is a mixed reality game that turns your room into a submarine
  • Attack on Titan VR is delayed again, this time to the second half of 2024

More info (Resident Evil 4 Remake)
More info (Toy Trains)
More info (Taskmaster VR)
More info (Arizona Sunshine 2)
More info (Mecha Force)
More info (Madison)
More info (Prepare To Dive)
More info (Attack On Titan VR)

Some reviews of content

  • Sniper Elite VR: Winter Warrior looks like an expansion of the previous game, offering more of the existing content. It is fun, but it offers no new innovative content

More info (Sniper Elite VR)

Other news

Quest 3 Elite Battery Strap Sales have been halted because of a charging issue

Learn more

Popular social 3D platform Zepeto plans to become compatible with Apple Vision Pro

Learn more

Saw Watts has published a good post in which he vents about the last 10 years in VR

Learn more

Huawei may be working on an Apple Vision Pro competitor

Learn more

Solos AirGo 3 are smartglasses that let you connect with ChatGPT

Learn more

OpenXR Toolkit development has been suspended

Learn more

Finland has just announced a plan to become a worldwide metaverse leader before 2035

Learn more

News from partners (and friends)

Listen to the podcast of Gabriele Romagnoli

LinkedIn influencer Gabriele Romagnoli has just started a new podcast series about XR and AI, and I have been his first guest! If you want to listen to our interview, you can find the links here below
Listen to the podcast on Youtube
Listen to the podcast on Spotify

HoloLight secures $12M of funding

My friends at HoloLight have just received $12M of funding to keep developing their XR streaming solution for enterprise. Big kudos to them!
Learn More

Some XR fun

Wireless PCVR solutions explained in SpiderMan terms
Funny link

How to share BigScreen Beyond with your friends
Funny link

Donate for good

Like last week, also this week in this final paragraph I won’t ask you to donate for my blog, but to the poor people that are facing the consequences of the war. Please donate to the Red Cross to handle the current humanitarian situation in Ukraine. I will leave you the link to do that below.
 Let me take a moment before to thank anyway all my Patreon donors for the support they give to me:

  • Alex Gonzalez VR
  • DeoVR
  • GenVR
  • Eduardo Siman
  • Jonn Fredericks
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  • Simplex
  • Gregory F Gorsuch
  • Matias Nassi

And now here you are the link to donate:

Support The Red Cross in Ukraine

(Header image by Varjo)

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