Bigscreen launches Beyond — ‘world’s smallest VR headset’

Bigscreen has introduced its first VR wearable, Beyond, which the company describes as the “world’s smallest VR headset.”

Beyond is a PC-only headset and weighs under 6oz with its strap. For reference, one of the lightest headsets on the market, the HTC Vive Flow, weighs 6.6oz. Despite its lightness, Beyond still includes two 5K 90Hz OLED displays, pancake optics that can eliminate gaps between pixels and six-degrees-of-freedom tracking.

The company’s founder and CEO, Darshan Shankar, said that today’s headsets are significantly heavier compared to older VR headsets. These newer headsets are also too bulky and uncomfortable to wear.

“We invented new technologies to increase comfort and developed ultra-high-end components like OLED microdisplays and pancake optics to increase immersion,” Shankar said.

“To deliver the best software experience for watching movies in Bigscreen, we also had to build the best hardware with Bigscreen Beyond.”

Users must scan their faces with an iOS app to create a customized Beyond design. Because of this, the user no longer needs to adjust knobs and other controls to make the headset fit their facial features.

Beyond is ready for pre-order. Bigscreen will ship the headsets to U.S. customers in the third quarter of this year, while Canadian and European customers can receive their units in the last quarter.

Meanwhile, buyers in Australia, New Zealand and Japan will only receive their orders near the end of 2023. Bigscreen said Beyond would enter other countries next year. It explained that the lengthy distribution was tied to the customization process of each headset.

Beyond’s pros, cons

Beyond’s six-degree tracking works based on inputs from external SteamVR Base Stations, instead of built-in cameras like other headsets, to track users’ positions. Users can get the built-in headphones only by purchasing an optional “Audio Strap.” People with visual impairments must purchase custom prescription lenses to use the Beyond headset comfortably.

To operate this headset, the user needs to plug the headset into a PC via a link box, which supplies Beyond with power and video. The computer needs to be equipped with at least a quad-core processor and graphics card of Radeon RX 5700 XT or GeForce RTX 2070 caliber.

Bigscreen claims users can wear Beyond headsets for extended periods comfortably due to their weight. The maintenance for a Beyond unit is also relatively simpler thanks to its skin-safe, non-porous materials. Users only need to wash the unit regularly with mild dish soap to maintain cleanliness.

In addition to supporting the SteamVR platform, Beyond can accommodate compatible controllers — like Vive and Valve’s Index — and full-body trackers. Bigscreen, however, does not include controllers in the Beyond set.

Beyond retails for $999 per set, notably cheaper than some competitors like the $1,099 HTC Vive XR Elite or $1,500 Meta Quest Pro. However, the lack of controllers and the dependence on PC are Beyond’s downsides compared with these competitors. Additionally, users can only use Bigscreen’s new headset for games and apps listed on SteamVR, which limits their choices.

Headquartered in Los Angeles, Bigscreen initially focused on developing video streaming programs for VR consoles like Oculus and Vive. Its Bigscreen software allows people to get a movie theater experience while watching films at home using VR devices.

Bigscreen has raised $17 million in funding since its establishment in 2014. Last year, it concluded a Series A extension funding worth $3 million, which featured notable venture capitalists like Andreessen Horowitz and True Ventures.