XR Headsets to Look Forward to in 2022
Last year brought us plenty of XR (Extended Reality) highlights, major announcements of enterprise, hardware and technology level. There is no longer doubt that XR will be one of the defining pillars of the 4th industrial revolution, bringing the next generation of communication, interaction, presence and being to both enterprise and mass consumers. However, to really understand why XR will play a major role in the global technological development let's first talk about the technology itself.
What is Extended Reality (XR)?
XR is the general term used to describe technology of human-machine interaction facilitated through immersive hardware, software, digitalized cross physical and virtual world interactions. It is often referred to as an umbrella term that unites the three immersive technologies Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). Where Augmented Reality is used to enhance real world objects in real time with digital capabilities, Virtual Reality is an artificially created interactive virtual simulation that can be developed to recreate real world objects, processes, interactions and environments. Last but not least is the Mixed Reality that makes it possible to interact and control the digital overlays of real-world objects and environments in real-time. All three technologies are possible through headworn and faceworn AR, VR and MR hardware devices that include both glasses and headsets.
What are Extended Reality (XR) devices and headsets?
As the term includes all three immersive technologies, the devices really vary in parameters including visual fidelity, field of view (FoV), refresh rates, eye-tracking capabilities, battery life, formfactor and much more. XR hardware are head-worn, stand alone or tethered immersive devices and headsets that allow users to experience digital capabilities, cross physical and digital capabilities, virtual environments and settings of AR, VR and MR in real-life. We’ve seen quite a few remarkable headsets released in the past few years like the combined announcement of HTC Vive Pro 2 & HTC Vive Focus 3 VR headsets and AR headset like Rokid Air crowdfunded AR glasses, back in 2021. Or the major technology leap that was associated with Varjo XR-3 the next generation XR headset of 2020. Even though Hololens 2 has been with us since 2019, while we were patiently anticipating the next generation of this device, let's not forget how this MR headset caused an uproar in 2021 with winning a modified headset production $21.9 billion contract to deliver to the US army. Each noteworthy in their immersive technology class.
HTC VIVE Pro 2 & HTC Vive Focus 3
We looked at both of these headsets back when they were still just announced. HTC Vive Pro 2 and HTC VIVE Focus 3 released on June 3rd and June 27th respectively are two high-fidelity VR headsets. While there are quite a few similarities, both devices differ quite a bit. With VIVE Pro 2 being a PC-powered headset while VIVE Focus 3 is a standalone VR device. Having the same 2448x2448 per-eye resolution, 113° diagonal Field of View (FoV), 24.93 horizontal pixel per degree (PPD), Vive Pro 2 has a higher, 120Hz vs 90Hz, refresh rate, however VIVE Focus 3 comes with 117.22° horizontal FoV, hand tracking, no need of base stations for tracking, prolonged, 15hrs vs 6hrs battery life and a much more modern formfactor. What’s important to note is the insignificance of the price difference between the two headsets, with VIVE Pro 2 along with controllers and base stations costing $1399 USD, and VIVE Focus 3 with controllers just $1300 USD.
Announced in December 2020, Varjo XR-3 is PC-powered photorealistic level visual fidelity headset with 2880x2720 per-eye resolution, 115° horizontal field of view, Full Frame Bionic Display with human-eye resolution, 70 PPD, LiDAR powered depth awareness, 90Hz refresh rate and, importantly, eye and hand tracking. Varjo XR-3 is an enterprise grade XR headset, priced at $5495, that allows to create XR experiences with the next level of immersion in many ways thanks to its exceptional visual fidelity and built in eye- and hand- tracking capabilities that are especially important for Healthcare, Aerospace and Defense. Varjo XR-3 high visual fidelity allows the creation of digital twins and hyper-realistic experiences, building them using eye- and hand- tracking capabilities to control and interact with the environment as well as gather and analyze user behavior.
Released in December 2021, has gained much interest due to the Rokid crowdfunding campaigns that generated over $1,9 million USD from backers. Rokid Air are Phone-powered lightweight AR glasses with 1920x1080 per-eye resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, 43° FoV and 1800nits display brightness, compatible with many iOS and Android mobile phones, computers and tablets along with Switch, Xbox and both PS4 & PS5. Priced at $499 USD Rokid Air is communicated to be aimed at both consumers and business users, allowing access to entertainment, study and business applications. Communicated to be suitable for prolonged wear, the AR glasses are powered by the tethering device and allows to stay hands-free due to their voice-control capabilities.
Microsoft HoloLens 2
HoloLens 2 is one of the go-to devices that has been on the XR hardware market since November 2019. Coming with 1440x936 per-eye resolution, 43° horizontal FoV, 60 Hz refresh rate eye- and -hand tracking, the MR device is an enterprise grade headset priced at $3500 USD. HoloLens 2 is one of those headsets that cover a vast scope of industries and is integratable with Microsoft Dynamic 365. The device has quite a significant number of existing and potential use cases in a variety of industries like healthcare, construction, education and military, to name a few.
Why is Extended Reality (XR) important?
Today, it is still as important as ever to stay connected, removing the barriers of physical presence while being able to carry on with both work, educational and everyday life activities. With the ever-growing ambition of following through with the creation of a Metaverse - an immersive, decentralized, hardware-independent 3D virtual “sandbox” that allows users to experience the next generation of existence and interaction. Using a variety of technology from XR to haptics and EMG(electromyography) can serve as a leverage to bring this vision to the threshold at an accelerating pace. With that being said, just the XR addressable market alone is estimated to reach 125.2 billion by 2026 with accelerating development in healthcare, educational, industrial and military directions.
The XR Headsets of 2022
Now that we have identified some key points and notions, including the concept of XR, XR devices and headsets, looked at some examples and established the importance of XR technology, we can look at the much anticipated XR headsets that many have been looking forward to in 2022.
The worldwide hype that was amplified by the October 2021 Meta announcement of their own Metaverse, NFTs that skyrocketed to over $10 billion USD in sales volumes along with Web3 being one of the biggest tech buzzwords of the year, continues in 2022. This year kicked off with a major announcement of the Qualcomm and Microsoft partnership to start the development of a lightweight Augmented Reality (AR) chip, NVIDIA making its Omniverse XR design and collaboration platform, which was launched as an enterprise solution, now available to creators worldwide. Let’s not forget the Apple M1 most powerful chip announcement which is rumored to power the upcoming Apple AR glasses as well as Intel’s new ArcTM Alchemist and Ponte Vecchio GPUs that will offer great computing power much needed to push the Metaverse development further.
It is now much more visible that the tech markets are following this hype and reshaped at a rapid pace to accommodate for the new XR trends. It is becoming even more visible amongst global players. CES, one of the world’s most influential tech events, has already moved beyond being just a consumer electronics show, where before, the majority of presentations were to launch new mobile devices and home electronics technology. CES 2022, held Jan 5-8 in Las Vegas, has set the stage for a number of remarkable XR products, starting from next generation head worn devices to advancements in haptics, movement tracking and XR creation software.
XR is without doubt one of the technologies that will help achieve unprecedented connection, interaction and presence for many companies and individuals worldwide, without being limited to a single purpose, be it for purely entertainment, interaction, work or education. While we are waiting for more groundbreaking news to come, to start off we will be looking at the XR devices that are promised for 2022 as well as their main specifications and potential advantages.
Promised for the second half of 2022, Vuzix Shield enterprise grade AR glasses was one of the XR devices recognized at CES 2022 with multiple Innovation Awards. The revolutionary binocular AR smart glasses will have advanced optics, immersive sound and voice control, state of art eye protection as well as allow smartphone integration. Powered by an 8 core CPU running Android 10, the glasses will incorporate Waveguide optics, microLED displays, stereo speakers as well as an advanced optical reader. The lightweight smart glasses are aimed at enterprise grade use perfect for any work environment due to the noise-canceling headphones. Aiming to connect traditional, social and digital systems Vuzix strives to reshape how users will connect and exchange information in the Metaverse, with the new AR glasses making this interaction more seamless and user friendly. With prices still not announced, Vuzix could be a great addition to advanced enterprise XR experiences.
Sony PlayStation VR2
Due to launch at the end of 2022, Sony PlayStation VR2 is a much anticipated next-generation VR headset developed to be used exclusively with the Sony PlayStation 5 (PS5). The new device is promised to deliver high visual fidelity through 4K HDR, foveated rendering, 2000x2040 per eye display resolution, smooth 90/120Hz frame rates as well as 110-degree field of view (FOV). The VR headset will combine 3D Audio, headset feedback sensory feature, innovative haptic feedback, adaptive trigger Sense controllers and most importantly eye tracking. The next generation virtual reality system is promising to advance the sense of presence and help users experience the gaming world like never before. Speculated to be priced at $399, Sony PlayStation VR2 could make fair competition to the consumer aimed Oculus Quest 2 and continue to democratize the immersive headset market.
Magic Leap 2
Available as part of the Early Access Program, Magic Leap 2 is promised to arrive mid-2022. Still little is known about the upcoming device, sources suggest it will be more compact, weighing only 248 grams and suitable for all day wear, assuming an improved battery life. Magic Leap 2 can potentially become one of the smallest and lightest AR industry devices, offering large FOV and leading optics. The company is promising to continue with its focus on enterprise customers and development of the AR industry for business. During the SPIE Photonics West 2022 Conference the headset was communicated to feature a 12MP RGB camera for visual capture, be more lighting condition flexible thanks to the extended device brightness range of 20-2,000 nits as well as include eye-tracking. Communicated to be ready for general commercial availability in 2022, Magic Leap has yet to communicate the precise launch date, while it has already provided devices to healthcare technology companies. The estimated price is still widely speculated, however could be benchmarked somewhere around $2295 USD, the price of Magic Leap 1.
Meta Project Cambria (Oculus Quest Pro)
There are quite a few speculations around the new headset promised by the ultimate tech giant Meta, former Facebook, starting from the name (Project Cambria or Oculus Quest Pro) to a pretty vague launch date prediction of sometime in 2022. A stand-alone headset is suggested to have a significant increase in visual fidelity, accompanied by eye-tracking, adaptive scaling technique and foveated rendering. The device is expected to have integrated face tracking which could enable it to capture and replicate real time facial expressions. It is still not clear how far Meta will go with the AR capabilities in the new device, but it is becoming more evident that the new device will not be a purely VR headset. As the upcoming headset is aiming to have much more advanced capabilities than the current Oculus Quest 2, it is quite likely that the new Meta headset will be of a different price grade and could cost around $1000 USD.
Panasonic and Shiftall MeganeX
MeganeX, expected to be launched in spring 2022, is an ultra-lightweight and compact VR headset, created in a joint partnership of Shiftall and Panasonic. The MeganeX headset is communicated to weigh only 250 grams achieved by weight reduction and miniaturization. Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR1 chipset the VR headset is promised to have 1.3 inch OLED microdisplays, 2,560x2,560 per eye resolution, up to 120Hz refresh rate, 6DoF (degrees of freedom) head tracking as well as be StreamVR compatible. Priced at approximately $900 USD, the high-resolution headset is aimed at the consumer market and could be a promised VR device for prolonged wear due to its lightweight.
VRgineers XTAL 3
On January 10, 2022 Vrgineers announced the launch of XTAL 3 the VR and MR headset aimed at enchanting pilot training. Featuring one of the widest FOV for currently existing immersive devices at 180° horizontal and 90° vertical, PC-powered XTLA 3 will incorporate two 4K resolution displays with 3840x2160 per eye resolution and 120 Hz refresh rate enabling it to deliver the next level visual fidelity. Featuring eye-tracking and foveated rendering the device gathers gaze information and holds both VR and MR capabilities. XTAL3 maintains the main aim at professional and military clients as it was developed in cooperation with a team of worldwide Air Force pilots, promising next generation true-to-life experiences to the industry. Estimated to cost around $11,500 USD the precise launch date is yet to be communicated.
Pimax Reality 12K QLED
Announced during the Pimax Frontier Live Conference, Pimax Reality 12K QLED is expected to ship at the end of 2022. The Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 powered two-in-one, both stand-alone (8K / 5K resolution) and PC-powered (12K resolution) VR headset is promised to have up to 200 Hz refresh rate (up to 120Hz for stand-alone mode). The display is estimated to be at an exceptional 5,760 x 3,240 per eye resolution with 240° diagonal FoV (200° diagonal for stand-alone mode), as well as incorporating eye-, head-, mouth- and body-tracking along with head/hand/controller-tracking. The new VR headset is built to achieve a consistent convincing reality with naturalness, self-awareness and freedom at the core of the product and development efforts. Pimax Reality 12K QLED has announced its ambition to become one of the key products to enter the Metaverse. Priced starting from $2,399 USD, Pimax Reality is definitely one of the noteworthy VR headsets of 2022 that could potentially deliver unprecedented visual fidelity at a reasonably matching price.
ThirdEye Razor MR
Announced in January 2022, the ThirdEye Razor lightweight consumer aimed MR glasses are promising to be an all day wear device best suitable for prolonged, up to 8-hour in-Metaverse use. The apps for the MR glasses are communicated to vary and go further than just gaming and entertainment, covering such directions like telehealth and remote assistants. Weighing only 85 grams, the MR glasses are promising a 43° FoV and 70 Hz refresh rate. Compatible with most iOS and Android devices the ThirdEye Razor MR glasses will include voice control, spatial audio capabilities and noise canceling microphones. Estimated to ship later in 2022, with the price yet to be announced, Razor MR could potentially compete for an ever-growing immersive smart glasses market share.
Kura Gallium AR smart glasses
Announced during CES 2022, Kura Technologies Kura Gallium AR consumer smart glasses have already received the CES Innovation Award for the creation of the top performing AR device. Built on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR platform, the 150° FoV AR glasses are communicated to be the first AR device that can achieve a full frame field of view. The 95% display transparency is communicated to allow for a seamless image blend into the surrounding environment and is promised to deliver 8K per eye resolution while being compact and lightweight (80 grams), feature a full-color Micro-LED display and 6-DoF head tracking. The Kura Gallium AR glasses could offer up to 6-hour battery life and are aimed significantly at the Metaverse content while being suitable for telepresence, training, entertainment, logistics, medical and service apps. Priced at $1199 USD, the developer’s kits of pre-production devices were promised to be delivered to big corporations and government agencies back in 2021, setting the stage for the Kura Gallium 2022 shipment, however with all the hopes up it is still not very clear whether the company will manage to launch their AR glasses to mass consumers this year.
Since the May 2019 release date of Valve Index, the PC-powered VR headset haven’t really gone beyond the rumors of a potential new stand-alone device codenamed Deckard. That was until June 16, 2022, when a patent application filed by Valve back in December 2021 was published. The application itself doesn’t really prove the fact that the illustrated concept is of Deckard, however does make us wonder, if the headset comes out, what specs and capabilities could feature. At this point no information is available on this headset beyond what is in the patent application, today we can only guess and make assumptions, the good part is that we have Valve Index to serve as some benchmark. Valve Index is a PC-powered VR headset with 1440x1600 per-eye resolution, 144 Hz refresh rate, 108 horizontal° FoV, 6 DoF Marker-based tracking priced at $499 USD. Realistically speaking, the new Valve VR headset would need to significantly improve per-eye resolution and incorporate at least hand-, face- and body- tracking, not even mentioning eye tracking. At the same time we understand that the refresh rate on a stand-alone VR device could ultimately have to go down compared to Valve Index’s current 144Hz. At this point we are only left to wait and observe, hoping we could have another curious competitor on the 2022 XR headset market.
Even though we have quite a few exciting new headsets and glasses, there are even more tech enterprises that are expected to join the near future XR race, with either already working devices or promising prototypes. Like TLC’s LEINIAO AR that we can hope to see as a working prototype at the February Mobile World Congress. Let's also not forget the tech giants like Apple with their long promised VR headset and Microsoft with HoloLens 3 that continue to stir countless rumors around their XR device specs, launch dates and prices, while pushing the promised release dates from 2022 even further.
When we think of XR, it is no longer a question of whether it will be implemented or not, it is all about the pace and main players that will advance both the hardware and software tech even further. With the ever-growing ambitions to build a Metaverse in the next 3 to 5 years, XR will continue to be one of the key pillars that can help it happen. This year, like no other, will be pushing the boundaries of tech advancement even further, the excitement and the opportunity it will bring to both enterprise and consumer users worldwide will soon become much more feasible and measurable.
What's the best headset to use for 2022?
It would be reasonably inaccurate to recommend one particular headset, primarily since each of the described XR headsets has its advantages and purposes. The best XR headset to use would be the one that serves the project purpose or individual need, making the educated choice based on factors like visual fidelity, weight, battery life, and, most definitely, the required level of interactivity and immersion.
Where do you start if you're looking to use mixed reality to enhance productivity and collaboration?
Depending on your knowledge and familiarity with MR technology, you can start your research by checking examples of technological capabilities and previously developed projects. This could give you a better visual idea of MR capabilities and help shape your vision of the productivity and collaboration functions you wish to be enhanced by immersive technology.
Are there other AR glasses and headsets to consider?
Every year the AR hardware market sees more new devices launched, 2022 was no exception. Our article covered some fine examples of XR technology, which made headlines and buzz in the immersive technology industry. However, quite a few more were launched in 2022, like Vuzix Blade 2, INMO Air, Nreal Air, MAD Gaze Wave, Dream Glass Lead Pro, and Cosmo Vision.
Article Last Edited 13 October 2022.