The Best of VR & AR at CES 2023
CES 2023 was an exciting year for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology. From new headsets to innovative software, the show had something for everyone in the XR space. Here are some of the highlights from the event:
Sony had a lot of exciting announcements at CES 2023, including Grand Turismo 7 getting PSVR support, and well as Beat Saber being announced as another release for the platform.
PSVR2 with Horizon Call of the Mountain was also being demoed there, in which I was able to go hands on with!
The PSVR2's Sense Technologies were definitely my highlights for this hardware. The use of haptics not only in the controllers (including adaptive triggers) but also in the headset itself, combined with 3D audio this means that if there's a heavy footstep on your left, it appears you can feel it on the left side of your head and hands.
The headset felt light and comfortable, and the cable was not bothersome or heavy.
Other highlighted games slated to be released for the PSVR2 include Moss Book II, Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge, Resident Evil Village, Resident Evil 4, Demeo, No Mans Sky, Dark Pictures: Switchback and more.
Also at CES 2023, HTC Vive unveiled their new headset, the XR Elite, touted as the “all in one XR solution”. This headset features VR and mixed reality capabilities, possibly taking a stab at being a competitor to the Meta Quest Pro. It features hand tracking, 1920 × 1920 pixels per eye resolution, and adjustable IPD sliders.
The XR Elite also features full color passthrough, 6 DoF inside-out tracking, 90 Hz refresh rate, and up to 110-degree FOV, and up to 15 hours of battery life assuming you are using the swappable battery pack in the back of the headset.
Currently there is no eye or face tracking with this headset, but Vive plans on adding this on as an accessory later down the road.
The XR Elite also features a modular design - you can either use it like a traditional VR headset or you can remove the battery pack at pack to wear them more like goggles.
Besides taking advantage of their already existing Viveport platform, those craving content and games will also have access to SteamVR through USB-C PC connection or via WiFi, with support up to WiFi 6E.
Currently, pre orders are available now until Feb 15th for $1,099.
The Holoride Retrofit Kit from CES 2023 is an innovative way to upgrade your drive into an immersive gaming experience. With the Holoride, you can transform your car into a virtual reality entertainment center, allowing you to create an interactive, interactive gaming experience as a passanger.
The Retrofit kit is a small puck like device that is designed to be stuck to a windshield via suction cup mount, and it connects to a device like a Vive Flow through bluetooth with a 14 hour rechargeable battery.
Holoride describes their technology as as “elastic content” meaning that real life motions of the vehicle are mapped to in game movements. Motion is synced to VR in your vehicle as the technology senses the car's motion and position.
Currently you can purchase an $799 kit that includes the Vive Flow headset and a 1 year subscription service to their game/app library, or $199 as a standalone unit if you already have a Flow, but the company has plans to expand support to other headsets soon.
The Lynx R-1 is a mixed reality headset that a lot of enthususts have been looking forward to, and they definetly made their prescense known by offering demos at the Ultraleap (hand tracking) booth.
The Lynx R-1 features hand tracking as their primary method of control (featuring Ultraleap built into the headset) with controllers as a secondary form of input.
What I was most impressed by was the seamless VR to AR transition - in the demo I tried I started off in VR in a solar system - I got to interact with the planets, but if I took enough steps back I actually went out of VR and now could view the solar system in a circular portal view while being able to still see my surroundings (in full color passthrough). However I could still grab planets and throw them into my environment from this view.
The Lynx R-1 utilizes Qualcomm's XR2 Snapdragon chipset, 1,600 × 1,600 (2.6MP) per-eye resolution, 90 degree FOV, 90hz refresh rate and 3 hours of battery life.
Some other unique features includes the ability to lift up the screen 90 degrees so you can see what is ahead of you, as well as unique 'four fold catadioptric freeform prism' lenses which makes it possible to pack all the components in a smaller form factor.
Lynx has kept their plattform open source so that developers can easily release games and content to it, but will also have PC support for SteamVR as well.
The Lynx R-1 was funded through Kickstarter but faced some delays due to supply chain issues. However it seems like they are currently being shipped to backers currently as we speak.
Pimax brought two of their current kickstarter offerings to CES, both the Crystal VR headset and their modular device, Portal.
The Pimax Crystal is an impressive headset at 2880 x 2880 pixels per eye, and a maximum refresh rate of 160Hz. With no image distortion, the maximum pixel density can be 42PPD, which is the highest PPD known currently amongst other current VR headset competitors.
It also features 6 cameras, 4 on the outside to track head and body movements and 2 on the inside to track eyes and face.
Pimax’s Crystal headset costs $1,599.00 and is currently available for pre-order.
Meanwhile, the Pimax Portal is self dubbed as “the world’s first metaverse entertainment system” based on the fact that there are multiple ways in which the device can be played. The first is in a Nintendo Switch like mode, the controllers can be magnetically snapped off and added to motion controllers - the device itself can then be slotted inside a VR headset. The motion controllers can also be used for flat screen games on a TV as well.Specs include the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 chipset, a 5.5-inch, 3,840 x 2,160 resolution, 144Hz LCD or QLED display, 6DoF (six degrees of freedom) tracking via four back cameras and FOV options of 60, 100 or 140 with tradeoffs on pixel density depending on which you pick.
Somnium Space is a new entry into the VR space, showcasing their VR1 Dev model at CES.
The VR1 is an open source PCVR headset with a 2880 x 2880 display resolution, a horiozntal FOV of 120 degrees and a vertical FOV of 100 degrees, pass through cameras, hand tracking (via Ultraleap) and eye tracking.
The VR1 is touted to be a customizable VR experience for the user in that the headset is modular, meaning users can change, add or modify various parts of the headset, as well as giving users access to most of the sensors so those who want tp deep dive can create custom VR and MR applications. There are several USB-C ports on the headset for connecting accessories (in which the company also supports via 3d printing) and three modular anchor points.
While the VR1 won't release with it's own controllers, it will be compatible with any lighthouse capable controllers (Index, Vive, etc)
TCL, the company most known for TV’s, smartphones and other mobile devices surprisingly unveiled three XR devices at CES.
First up are the NXTWear S XR glasses.While these do not feature true AR, they provide a head mounted virtual display so you can see your smartphone, tablet, or protable gaming console inside your glasses. It features a virtual screen size of 130in, directional speakers built in, and support for 3D movies.
As for true AR/VR devices, TCL announced two - the RayNeo X2 and the NXTWear V.
The RayNeo X2 is a slim pair of AR glasses that use Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2 chipset and MicroLED based waveguide optics to suspend the device's video into the user's field of view. The planned use case of these glasses would be to provide live language translation, provide navigation services, music playback and more. It also features a hands free camera that can take photos and videos.
Finally the NXTWear V is a lightweight (236 grams) VR headset with a 1512ppi pixel density, pancake lenses, 2280x2280 resolution, 108 degree FOV and full color passthrough.
Some other highlights include the ability for the wearer to share their view instantly via a single button press to someone not in headset watching on a flat screen device (on the same Wifi network). The NXTWear V also offers multiple headsets to be controlled from a one computer, making things easier for users who may have multiple headsets in the same space to view the same piece of content.
Unfortunately TCL mentioned no plans to offer this headset commercially yet, so time will tell if this headset ever gets released.
AR was big at CES and the Lumus Z-Lens was no exception. However, instead of showing off glasses themself, the Z-lens is a new prototype lens that shrinks waveguide technology into a tiny package that can be hidden at the top corner of an eyeglass lens.
Wavelength guide (or waveguide technology) pushes out and manipulates projections from the top corners of the glasses frame. Then the lenses move the projections so they are centered in your vision and you can see the full projection with just one eye.
The Lumus Z-Lens provides 2048 x 2048 resolution for full color AR content and a 50 degree field of view with 4,000 nits per watt of LED illumination, making this display bright and clear even in direct sunlight. While not necessarily a new technology, these lenses are 5-10 times brighter than competitor's lenses.
While not a headset (and surprisingly a little late to the game) the video game peripheral company Razer announced at CES a new headstrap and facial interface for the Meta Quest 2.
In an official press statement, the new accessories can be described as: “Designed for long-lasting comfort and weight-balanced support, the Razer Adjustable Head Strap System was created with all head shapes in mind. The high-performance nylon material provides reliability, comfort, and durability while the optimized weight distribution allows for more balance during active gameplay. The soft adjustable straps will help gamers find their perfect fit and quick slip-on design ensures little interruption in resuming gameplay.”
No word on pricing yet.
Overall, CES 2023 was a great show for VR/AR enthusiasts. We saw new hardware, improved software, and innovative ideas that will help propel virtual reality into the future. We can’t wait to see what CES 2024 has in store!