Finnish startup Varjo launches new $3,990 mixed-reality headset to take on Apple, Microsoft

Finnish mixed-reality startup Varjo on Monday launched its latest headset, the XR-4, a product it hopes to sell to large enterprise firms.

The headset, which starts at a price of $3,990, is similar to those from MetaMicrosoft and Apple. It comes as various major tech companies are betting big on virtual and augmented reality, a space they see serving as the next big shift for technology, with an impact of a similar scale to that of the invention of the internet or the mobile phone.

Unlike consumer offerings from companies such as Meta, Varjo’s headset is intended for enterprise use cases. For example, a pilot working for a major defense contractor could use it to train in a virtual reality simulation. Or, a surveyor could use it to map out the landscape of a big construction site.

The XR-4 headset has two 4K displays and a 50% wider field of view compared with previous-generation devices. It also comes with brighter displays and a wider color palette than earlier devices.

There’s a few things that are simpler technically in the XR-4,” Varjo’s chief product officer, Patrick Wyatt, told CNBC on a call. “We now have one screen per eye which has pushed the resolution right to the limits of that screen, so taking out some costs that way. But most importantly, it’s just a question about scale.”

The XR-4 also has two 20-megapixel cameras on the front to enable so-called pass-through mixed reality. This is where the user can see the world around them through actual lenses embedded in the headsets, as opposed to being completely immersed in a virtual world. It’s similar to what Meta offers on its headsets and what Apple plans to include on the Vision Pro.

The idea is that users can overlay digital objects in this environment on top of the physical world. CNBC tried out Varjo’s previous headset, the XR-3, in Helsinki in 2022 and its headset enabled the reporter to go into a virtually rendered kitchen and interact with cupboard doors and touch the surface.

The XR-4 also comes with ambient light sensors and improved lidar, or Light Detection and Ranging, a method for determining ranges and surface areas by using 3D laser scanning. This is important to ensure that users can experience both virtual and augmented reality environments when wearing the headset.

The XR-4 also supports built-in 3D spatial audio and has noise-canceling mics and integrated speakers. It has inside-out tracking and Varjo’s own controllers which allow a user to navigate the digital and physical environments.

Earlier this year, U.S. tech giants Apple and Meta announced mixed-reality headsets. Meta launched the Quest 3 in June. Apple’s $3,500 Vision Pro headset is expected to launch next year.

Varjo has raised a total of more than $160 million of funding from investors including Apple supplier Foxconn, private equity firm EQT, autos giant Volvo and venture capital firm Atomico. The company did not disclose its valuation at the time of its last round when it raised $40 million from investors.

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