We've always said that the ultimate XR headset would offer both VR and AR - at least for gaming, if not more mundane purposes. So we've been keeping an eye on the development of the Lynx R-1, which promises to offer just that. The French startup calls it, 'An amazing VR headset, which also happens to be the best AR headset'.
Thanks to a recent pair of videos, we now know that its Kickstarter campaign will open towards the end of this month (September 2021), with consumer prices starting at $499 up to $699 for a limited edition in clear plastic. There will also be a professional edition for businesses at $899, with the first hardware shipping by the end of the year.
Standalone and PC VR
Lynx was founded two years ago by Stan Larroque - who has been prototyping this hardware for five years - to create a versatile and open device for all uses, from games and entertainment to professional training and education. With this in mind, the R-1 will support OpenXR in addition to Unity by the end of the year.
The September update live stream offered insight into the development of the hardware, as well as confirmed specs (see below). Larroque explained that Lynx has chosen to open a Kickstarter, rather than go direct to market, so the company can more accurately predict how many units to manufacture. This is especially important with the current global component shortages.
The website claims, 'LYNX is the first All-in-One Mixed Reality headset,' although Oculus might have something to say about that.
The Lynx R-1 is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2 and can operate as a standalone headset, as well as connect to PC for Steam VR compatibility. The prototype was shown working as a PC VR headset via cable, with a WiFi 6 solution in the works.
In terms of resolution, we're looking at 1600 x 1600 per eye with a 90° Field Of View (FoV) and 90Hz refresh rate, much in line with its main competitor, the Oculus Quest 2. The cool bit is the colour passthrough for augmented reality.
The website claims, 'LYNX is the first All-in-One Mixed Reality headset,' although Oculus might have something to say about that with its mixed reality mode with passthrough for Quest 2 - albeit black and white only.
Depending upon the final release date, Lynx might just be first to offer a full colour AR experience - unless Facebook announces a similar feature set for the much-rumoured Quest 2 Pro at next month's Connect 2021 developer event.
Is this the 'all things to all people' XR headset we've been looking for? Maybe. It's not a clear home run, but we very much look forward to trying one.
The design features a halo-style construction, similar to PlayStation VR, which is possibly the most comfortable VR headset we've used. The battery is located at the back of the head for better mass distribution.
The frontispiece looks much flatter than rival headsets, without sacrificing FoV, but Larroque confirmed that light can leak in at the sides unless the user affixes a magnetic foam facial interface. God rays should be a thing of the past, however.
The Lynx R-1 will ship without controllers, as it uses Ultraleap hand tracking as the main input method, but fear not - it will support the forthcoming cross-platform controllers from FinchShift. Larroque also revealed that they are, "Exploring with another, bigger company that is famous for making accessories in the PC world".
What's it worth to you?
At $499 on Kickstarter - possibly more at full release - the Lynx R-1 is a tough sell without controllers, while established competitors include them for $200 less.
Viewer feedback to the live update video ranged from, '$500 was already a little expensive to compete with facebook but without controllers makes it a no go for me' to, 'I am seriously considering giving them the $700 for the clear case just to express how much I hate Facebook'.
The specification looks good to us, with the added bonus that we expect the R-1's hand tracking to be superior to the current market leader.
Is this the 'all things to all people' XR headset we've been looking for? Maybe. It's not a clear home run, but we very much look forward to trying one for ourselves.
LYNX-R1 Technical specifications
- Optics: 4-fold catadioptric freeform prism
- Resolution: Dual 1600 x 1600 LCD @ 90Hz
- FoV/PPD: 90°(circular)/18 (with super resolution)
- Positional: 2 B&W cameras
- Hand tracking: 2 IR cameras
- RGB cameras: 2 visible light cameras
- IMU: Accelerometer,gyroscope,magnetometer
- Speakers: Stereo
- Microphone array: Stereo
- 6DoF tracking: SLAM with world anchors
- Hand-Tracking: Two-handed, gesture recognition
- SoC: Qualcomm®Snapdragon™XR2
- Memory: 6 GB LPDDR5
- Storage: 128GB, extensible with micro SD card
- Software platform: Android 10, Unity 3D
- Wi-Fi: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax)
- Bluetooth: 5.0
- USB: Type-C
- Battery life: 3 hours of active use
- Cooling: Active