If you're excited by virtual reality and you've been considering an HTC Vive or an Oculus Rift, you'll be aware of one big mitigating factor: in addition to the several hundred dollars or pounds you'll spend on the headset, you'll need a very beefy PC in order to play those high-end VR games you're dreaming of. That's exactly what the Sulon Q wants to avoid.
According to the Toronto-based manufacturer, the Sulon is the Bob's Country Bunker of headsets: it does both kinds of digital reality, augmented and virtual. And it's a cord-cutter, doing it all "tether-free" -- no wires, no external controllers, no tracking systems. "Wear and play" is the phrase that the Sulon people like to bandy around.
It basically means that the Sulon is an AMD-powered PC you wear on your head, one that even comes with Windows 10 pre-installed. Here are the key specs:
- AMD FX-8800P processor with Radeon R7 graphics built in
- Proprietary Sulon spatial processing unit (SPU)
- 8GB memory
- 256GB SSD storage
- A 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution OLED display
- 3D spatial audio powered by GenAudio's AstoundSound
- Built-in 3.5mm audio jack and custom spatially optimized Sulon Q earbuds
- Dual noise-cancelling embedded microphones
- Sensor package: accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer
- Microsoft Windows 10, plus AMD LiquidVR
- Wireless keyboard and mouse are provided, plus it will work with any other Windows 10-compatible controllers and joysticks
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0
- Two USB 3.0 ports
What does that mean?
There are a couple of takeaways from that laundry list of components. One is the high-resolution display. The Sulon does both AR in addition to VR, but unlike the Microsoft HoloLens, which just overlays a holographic display on the real world, the Sulon will, as far as I can tell, completely replicate the world around you. It uses what it calls "real-time machine vision technologies", layering the augmented parts of that reality on top of the digitally recreated real world.
The second point relates to the repeated use of the word "spatial". The Sulon's spatial processing unit (SPU) is a proprietary bit of tech that seems to be the linchpin of the system, mapping both the external world and your position in it. Sulon suggests that applications include spatial computing, where your lounge room is your computer desktop, with you able to use gesture controls to move programs around as you work on them.
The controlled style of AR also means an even more augmented environment. Pop a virtual fireplace in your bedroom and the shadows and light will flicker around the real world objects such as your bed and wardrobe. Another example Sulon suggest is kicking a virtual soccer ball around your house, where real world objects like lamps and vases will break and shatter when hit.
Is this for real?
We'll be able to find out soon, with the Sulon Q available for hands-on sessions this week as part of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. It's certainly ambitious -- even more so with Sulon aiming for a "late spring" launch, or around three months from now.
But the spec sheet doesn't mention battery life, and that's going to be a big deal with all that screen and processing power at play. Pricing, too, is yet to be announced.
Sulon describes the AMD processing and graphics power as "console-quality", which will send shivers down the spine of anyone currently selling a kidney in order to buy the latest and greatest in graphics cards for their VR-ready PC. The kind of mixed interactivity that the Sulon Q is promising is going to take a lot of high-end processing power, so will it have enough left over for high graphical fidelity? Personally, I'll take a grain of salt to wash down the hype and hope to be very pleasantly surprised.