Chinese startup Pimax is working on a virtual reality headset called the “Pimax 8K” that looks to address a couple of minor gripes about VR – pixel density and field of view (FOV).
Although the company is calling it an “8K” headset, it is not truly 8K (7,680 x 4,320). It is actually two 4K screens (3,840 x 2,160) joined in such a way as to make a display that is 7,680 x 2,160. Essentially it is doubling the pixel count of 4K (horizontally), and creating a broader virtual screen that provides a 200-degree FOV. For comparison, the Oculus Rift is 1,080 x 1,200 per eye with a 110-degree FOV.
Field of view is important for immersion. The wider the FOV, the harder it is to see the edge of the screen. In other words, seeing that blank blackness out of the corner of your eye is no longer going to be hanging there pulling you out of the game.
Pimax claims the headset provides six times the resolution of visors currently offered with 16.6 million pixels. That is an impressive number but what about pixel density?
Example of the screen-door effect (Image via Engadget)
One problem that VR has always struggled with is the "screen-door effect." Your eyes are so close to the display panels in the headset that they can sometimes see the tiny gaps between pixels. This effect is like looking through a screen door.
Pimax does not list the pixel density in its specs but claims to use a technology called “customized low persistence liquid panels.” These CLPL screens are a proprietary LCD rather than OLED. They reportedly sacrifice a bit of contrast and color temperature to gain pixel density without having to increase processing power.
Speaking of processing power; the headset can run on a GTX 980/1070 or AMD Radeon R9 Nano or better graphics card which is in line with current VR requirements. Pimax also claims that over 700 games and movies are already compatible with the device.
The Pimax 8K will be launching in January starting at around $500. Unfortunately, that is just for the headset alone. Pimax calls their VR unit “modular,” but what that really means is that you have to shell out additional money for the controllers and base station. Those will cost you another $300.