Home / Gadgets / Sulon Q is a working version of Facebook’s dream standalone VR headset

Sulon Q is a working version of Facebook’s dream standalone VR headset

Yesterday, Facebook revealed that it’s working on a standalone headset with inside-out tracking, which would mean that a user could jump into a full virtual reality experience with only the head-mounted display itself, without needing cumbersome cables attached to a big, expensive PC – and without base stations, too, to bounce IR signals off the headset and help it determine the user’s position in space.

Another company is doing exactly that, using an x86-based processor and a custom, in-house designed spacial processing unit built right into the headset. The company is Markham, Ontario-based Sulon, and their most recent hardware is the Sulon Q, an iteration of the Cortex VR headset tech I first tried at CES in 2015. The new design offers better visual fidelity, and more accurate inside-out tracking, letting developers blend real and virtual worlds with unprecedented accuracy. Plus, it can track in effectively any environment, inside and out, because it uses light in the visual spectrum instead of IR, which is difficult to track outdoors.

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“Inside-out is one of the holy grails to perfect, and to make sure that it’s cross environment, that it can work in any ambient lighting conditions and track robustly in pretty much any environment, allowing it to scale,” explained Sulon CEO Dhan Balachand. “So now if you’re going to buy a house, you can actually see the architectural model on your lot, in full scale, and you can actually walk in, from outdoors and change the interior decorating. You can look out through the window of your house and actually see your backyard.”

Why does any of this matter? Mainly because no one else has demonstrated an ability to do everything Sulon Q does in a single package yet – and that includes industry heavyweights like Oculus/Facebook, and like Intel. Facebook’s new Santa Cruz prototype does standalone, inside-out tracking, but demos still haven’t shown any seamless bleeding of real and virtual worlds. Sulon, in contrast, a tiny startup based in the outskirts of Toronto, actually showed me (and others) this technology working with a live demo, on headset hardware that’s nearly production-ready completely wire-free.