A new $6,000 virtual reality headset lets you see with 'human-eye' resolution

Key Points
  • Finnish start-up Varjo launched its first virtual reality (VR) headset on Tuesday.
  • The VR-1 device costs $5,995 and is intended for industrial use.
  • Varjo CEO Niko Eiden told CNBC there is strong demand for VR in professional markets like architecture and engineering.
Varjo's VR-1 headset
Source: Varjo

Finnish start-up Varjo launched its first virtual reality (VR) headset on Tuesday in a bid to capture the growing industrial market for the technology, despite slow pick-up among consumers.

The $5,995 headset will be sold directly to businesses in industries like architecture, engineering and construction. Varjo has already collaborated with companies including Airbus, Audi and Volkswagen.

The launch comes amid weaker-than-expected growth in the consumer VR market. Sales of VR headsets declined for four consecutive quarters before rebounding slightly in the third quarter of 2018, according to IDC. Analysts say clunky devices, high price tags and compatibility issues have kept many devices from going mainstream.

"The consumer market hasn't yet picked up as it was anticipated," Varjo co-founder and CEO Niko Eiden told CNBC last week. "On the professional side it's the complete opposite."

The headset, called Varjo VR-1, has a resolution of more than 60 pixels per degree, which Varjo says is 20 times higher than other devices on the market and equivalent to "human-eye" resolution. The device also comes with advanced eye-tracking capabilities that could, for example, allow pilots to train in virtual reality scenes that mimic real-life.

Varjo's VR-1 headset
Source: Varjo

Other companies like HTC and Microsoft have also tried to capitalize on the commercial market for virtual and augmented reality. HTC's Vive Pro headset retails for around $800.

Eiden said the high price tag of Varjo VR-1 has not been a deterrent for companies looking to use VR as a training and professional tool.

"We have no plan of lowering the price, and there hasn't been any indication that we would have to do that," Eiden said.

Varjo is based in Helsinki and has raised $46 million in funding to produce the VR-1. Its latest funding round was led by London-based venture capital firm Atomico and included an investment from German manufacturer Siemens. Varjo said it will introduce mixed reality component to the VR-1 headset later this year.

How VR training by companies like Microsoft is saving lives and making money