8k VR Headsets Are More Than Halfway to Real Life

How advanced will headsets need to be before they feel completely real?

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I put on a ridiculous looking headset that seemed twice as wide as any mainstream VR gear. I had visited the bottom of the ocean in VR before, but the last time I was there I was looking through lots of little squares. Try playing a video game with a screen porch door in front of your TV and you’ll get a taste of what most commercialized VR headsets are like today. This was better — more than halfway real.

Trying on 8k VR headsets

8,000 pixel VR headsets, like this Pimax 8k that I demo’ed, are being introduced to the space as the most high fidelity VR experiences money can buy – and with a $500 tag, they’re very competitively priced. The small group of engineers from east Asia has earned over $4.2M in funding on kickstarter.

It begs the question, how advanced will headsets need to be before they feel completely real?

Headsets VS. Real Life

Headset vs. real life vision

A person’s real life field of view is approximately 170° horizontal and 130° vertical which, if we equate to digital terms, means you’re looking at about 10,200 x 7,800 pixels at any given time assuming both of your eyes are open. You can find a more in-depth summary of these calculations on Road to VR.

In theory, if a headset were to achieve a 360° field of view it would need about 21,600px of horizontal resolution all the way around. This means pixels would completely disappear to the naked eye — we wouldn’t be able to see them without a microscope. In addition to pixel density, our depth of focus is variable, meaning objects come in and out of focus as we move closer and further away.

Traditionally (if that’s a word you can use in VR), headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have had a total pixel density of 2160 x 1200 in the field of view — a far cry from our every day 10,200 x 7,800.

By comparison, an 8k headset like the Pimax is 150° horizontal and 120° vertical. Each eye has a panel of 3840 x 2160 so a total of 7,680 x 4320.

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The Technological Innovation

If you’re curious about how 8k VR headsets work, Pimax CEO, Nordic Ren, tells me their 8K technology is built on the back of their earlier 4K headset. They customized the display panel for low persistence, then used the Brainwarp technique to lower the hardware requirements, reduce latency, and boost the refresh rate for a smoother experience.

What Higher Fidelity Means for VR

There are some major effects that 8k resolution has on usability today:

  • Reading text becomes easier
  • Using your peripheral vision means more natural head movement
  • More life-like immersion means more effective tricking of the sense
  • Greater detail for work use cases like interior design, architecture, healthcare and corporate training

Much of the content that exists for the major platforms can be compatible with 8k. Other 8k headsets are sure to come on the market and it’s unclear whether or not these manufacturers will compete with the major players or if they’ll be acquired.