Examining HP’s Investment in VR and the Reverb G2

Why HP is Continuing to Invest in Virtual Reality

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07/07/2020

Colin McMahon

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused some industries to slow down, others continue to see rapid developments and investment. Virtual reality (VR) has excelled during the coronavirus outbreak, with many businesses looking to new, digital ways to communicate and collaborate. At Keypoint Intelligence, we followed how one VR software platform provider (Glue) was upgrading its application to allow for more interaction in a COVID-remote world.

 

Improvements have not just been happening regarding VR software, however. Notable announcements in hardware continue, as well. At the end of May, HP formally unveiled its newest VR headset: the Reverb G2. This new product is proof that HP has found success in the VR hardware space and that the technology itself is continuing to make great strides on consumer and enterprise levels.

 

What Makes the Reverb G2 More Advanced?

To list all the improvements of the G2 over the G1 would take multiple, in-depth articles. For those curious in the full technical breakdown, I recommend reading Road to VR’s excellent series, which fully examines each improvement of the G2 over the G1. For the purposes of this article, however, I will stick to two crucial improvements: image clarity and control.

 

At first glance, it may be difficult to notice advantages in image clarity. After all, both the HP G1 and G2 offer 2,160 × 2,160 per-eye resolution displays. They both also offer the same 114-degree field of view (FOV) and, in terms of screen size, they’re pretty much identical.

 

So what gives? How can the Reverb G2, which shares so much in common with its predecessor, offer such superior image quality and clarity? To understand this, it helps to know a little bit more about how VR headset images work.

 

Source: Hexus

 

First, many early VR headsets suffer from what is known as the “screen door effect”. It is exactly what it sounds like. If you’ve ever looked through a screen door or window, you’ve noticed that, however slightly, it obscures your worldview. In VR, this is caused by visible gaps leftover between pixels (so the lower the pixel count on a VR headset, the higher the chance for screen door effect). Neither the HP G1 nor G2 suffered from this problem, but the G1 did fall victim to a similar defect: the mura effect.

 

The mura effect also functions like a cloudy sort of mesh covering the screen. Many devices have it – likely including your smartphone and tablet. But in a VR headset, where the image is directly in front of you and responds to your movement, well then, the mura effect becomes more pronounced. It can give the impression that certain colors are lagging—or dragging—when the user moves their head.

 

While the G1 suffered from this issue, HP has fixed things in the G2. While the pixel resolution is the same, the developers of the Reverb G2 have improved the quality of the pixels—thus greatly minimizing problems with image blur or drag even if the user moves their head at rapid speed. It is not at perfect retina quality, but it is a notable improvement.

 

The other advantage of control was maybe outside of HP’s…well, control…the first time around. Since Reverb G1 and G2 are part of the Windows Mixed Reality landscape, they can rely on certain features—such as the Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) controller. This interface caused notable problems with many headsets, including the G1.

 

Sensor issues in the controller caused it to disconnect frequently and require constant recalibration if the user lowered their arms too far, meaning that users had to take unexpected breaks just to ensure their controllers were still working properly. In addition, the WMR controller had an odd button configuration that did not feel particularly natural.

 

The new in-house HP controller is modeled after the much more successful Oculus Touch interface. It is interesting to see that this new controller will also be available separately from the headset (HP is getting into the haptic controller business) and will be compatible with other Windows Mixed Reality headsets. While it doesn’t feature the finer sensing abilities of the Touch or Index controllers, Keypoint Intelligence is confident that they will still represent a sizeable step in the right direction.

 

 

Why Is HP Continuing to Invest in VR Hardware?

HP is a company that dabbles with new technology. The print giant also works in additive manufacturing and wearable PCs in addition to many other areas. That said, they appear to be investing heavily into the VR hardware space. The Reverb G1 was already regarded as a capable headset, and the G2 looks to be a significant upgrade.

 

Given the slower than expected (but nonetheless steady) expansion of the VR market, HP’s logic is sound. They got in early, allowing them time to figure out a stable platform while other players remained on the sidelines. Now, VR appears to be growing a bit faster, spurred by popular consumer offerings such as Half-Life: Alyx and greater uses in the business space (all of which has been positively impacted by COVID-19). The advent of more available 5G infrastructure will also enable VR to do more with less, putting fewer demands on hardware and trusting more processing power to the cloud.

 

What Do We Think Comes Next?

Keypoint Intelligence does not anticipate anything other than success for HP’s newest VR hardware platform. The Reverb G2 has specs to make it desirable in multiple settings. If there is a limitation to HP’s latest offering, it is that it remains a tethered headset. This means a cord and a PC powerful enough to support it. All-in-one platforms like the Oculus Quest have seen tremendous success since launch and pretty much everyone agrees that all VR platforms are heading for a wireless future.

 

That said, it is still early days and the tether will likely not impede the G2’s success, especially not in the enterprise space. For the G3, however…it may well be a priority.