Helsinki-based virtual reality (VR) hardware startup Varjo has raised a new $31 million Series B round of funding led by Atomico, the venture capital company of Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstroem. Other investors include Next47, EQT Ventures and Lifeline Ventures.
Including the new cash infusion, Varjo has now raised a total of $46 million. The company has been working on its own VR headset, which promises to have a much higher resolution than today’s consumer-grade VR hardware.
Varjo says it can reach human-eye resolution with an interesting trick: The company is essentially putting a small high-resolution display at the center of a user’s field-of-view, which is fused with a bigger regular-resolution display. The idea is to offer the highest-possible resolution right in front of a viewer, and add regular-resolution images for their peripheral vision.
Varjo wants to use its new funding to staff up and grow its current team of 80 employees to over 200 in the next 12 months. The company also wants to further work with enterprise partners, and already has struck partnership agreements with companies including Airbus, Volkswagen and Volvo.
“The resolution of VR devices on the market today is a fraction of what the average human eye can see,” said Atomico’s Zennstroem in a statement. “Until we met Varjo’s visionary founders and experienced their superior product firsthand, we thought that VR was still at least 10 years away from being truly useful for professionals.”
The flip side of this enterprise focus is that technology like that developed by Varjo likely won’t reach consumers any time soon. That’s not only due to the high price tag — Bloomberg estimated Monday that Varjo’s headset would cost anywhere from $6000 to $11,000 — but also due to the fact that Varjo seems dead-set on productizing its technology itself.
Company executives told Variety last year that they had no plans to license their technology to any of the big players currently dominating the consumer VR market.