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/ 20.03.2019

HP’s ‘Reverb’ Is The Sharpest VR Headset Yet

HP’s new virtual reality headset, ‘Reverb – Professional Edition’, launched yesterday, joining HP’s comprehensive commercial VR portfolio. The headset has a staggering 2160 x 2160 panel per eye and 114-degree field of view.

We were honoured to be asked by HP to produce a companion experience for the headset, which is being shown at GDC19.

It is sometimes easy to forget just how great a technological leap we have made over the past five years or so, with advancements being made right across the VR industry. To provide a definitive comparison between the impressive visuals of Reverb and a representation of a ‘first generation’ headset, we developed an experience that allows the user to toggle between Reverb’s native resolution and field of view, and that of a headset from five years ago.

Oh how far we’ve come.

Toggling between the two modes, the first thing apparent is the reduction of the screen-door-effect. Reverb’s panels support a resolution of 2160 x 2160 per eye, and at this point, I can’t pick out the pixels anymore. The result is a crisp, smooth image which holds up extremely well when pointed at high-frequency detail, a good example of which is text.

Text rapidly becomes unreadable as its screen-size diminishes on low-resolution display panels; a problem where we are effectively undersampling the signal of the text. Switching to a much higher resolution, like Reverb’s, we move closer to the Nyquist frequency necessary for perfect text rendering, and legibility is greatly improved as a result.

To demonstrate this, we surrounded the player with blueprints and sketches mounted on easels, and on the blueprints, we added several sentences at various font sizes.

The difference in legibility between our emulated ‘Gen 1’ headset mode and native Reverb is astounding. It’s downright impressive how much more readable text and fine detail is at this resolution. We are now approaching the point where text at scales typically encountered in the real world, is as readable in VR as it is in reality.

So, we finally have a headset that all but eliminates screen-door-effect, enhances text legibility, and at a resolution of 2160 x 2160, we can still render a scene of relatively high complexity on a modern consumer-grade machine. It’s a really good balance between visual acuity and performance constraints imposed by the resolution. This was the moment I was sold on Reverb.

There are quite a few other aspects to love about the headset…

The increase in field of view to 114 degrees has been widely reported, but what is less apparent is that the shape of the optics themselves have changed. Reverb moves away from the traditional roughly-hemispherical design to one that is more rectangular, which really improves the perceived diagonal FoV when the headset is worn.

The ergonomics and design of the headset are also impressive. The initial impression is that a significant amount of time has been spent engineering something that feels polished, sleek and robust. The donut at the back does a really good job of weight distribution, and in general, the headset feels incredibly light (it’s only 1.1 pounds/0.5kilograms), which is a significant achievement given the amount of tech the unit is packing.

The padding around the lenses also does a fantastic job at eliminating light leakage. There is definitely a personal element to this, as it does depend on the contours of the user’s face, but for me, the padding completely eliminated light leakage, without feeling constrictive or tight.

It is clear a lot of time and thought has gone into the design of this headset, and both developers and end-users have been considered. HP has created a device which solves three specific pain points commonly associated with VR solutions: superb visual quality, smarter fit and comfort, especially during extended usage for intense workflows; and, worry-free deployment and support.

I’m really looking forward to this headset getting out in the wild, and seeing its impact on the Windows Mixed Reality ecosystem. I have a feeling it is going to be big.

This post was written by Sam Birley, REWIND’s Technical Director

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