AT E3 this year, Razer announced an impressive new version of their HDK called Razer HDK2. While HDK stands for Hacker Development Kit, Razer is clearly targeting more than the hacker and development communities. With virtual reality at the forefront this year, it is not surprising to see gamers and others becoming more and more excited about virtual reality. Many of these early-adapters are stymied by the closed-systems used by Oculus and others and are extremely happy to see Razer using the Open Source Virtual Reality (OSVR) as well as providing open hardware.
This Razer headset is a step up from previous versions. It now features a dual OLED display with a 2160 x 1200 resolution at a 90 Hz refresh rate. The resolution and refresh rate is the same as the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive headsets. A boon to consumers is that the HDK2 headset is much less expensive.
As you probably know, resolution is a big issue in the virtual reality arena. To help handle that issue, the new Razer HDK2 will have an Image Quality Enhancer (IQE) which seems to be an optical coating type of filter that will help with some of the image resolution problems inherent to these virtual reality headsets. How much this will help is yet to be seen.
HDK2 has a 100Hz IR camera included for position tracking, and two additional USB 3.0 connectors. This gives it room for expansion that makes it perfect for virtual reality enthusiasts. It doesn’t include any integrated audio like the Rift, however, the headset does have a Surround Sound codec so you can add your own headphones. Full specifications can be found at the RazerZone website.
The HDK2 also doesn’t include any controllers, but part of the goal of the HDK2 OSVR is to provide an open system that will work with many different control units.
The HDK2’s removable facemask is reminiscent of an underwater diving mask and is not terribly pretty or futuristic-looking. It features a bamboo charcoal microfiber foam layer. It uses a dual lens system so the lenses can be individually tuned to accommodate eyeglass-wearing users.
Razer is helping kickstart OSVR with a $5 million investment in helping companies pay for the expense of making their content OSVR-ready. If you are a VR content developer, you can apply to this fund. They are not putting any restrictions on the content, so you can develop your content to run on other systems as well as the OSVR system. While Razer is leading the funding of this initiative, it is also likely to get support from some other companies
Razer is already working with many different content providers to be compatible with as many as possible. Currently they are working closely with SteamVR, one of the major favorites of the open source community.
While OSVR hasn’t had a lot of publicity, it’s good to see an open platform that will allow the mixing and matching of controllers and components, as well as software. Razer is positioning itself to be one of the major players in the coming virtual reality revolution. Corporate supporters of OSVR include Leap Motion and Intel so while it has a lot of competition from Oculus and other well-funded companies, it does, hopefully, have enough support to help it survive as well as to spur innovation for this area.
While the Oculus Rift is currently selling for $599 and the HTC Vive is $799, the HDK2 will retail for just $399. It is expected to be available sometime this month at the Razer Store. This price will be attractive for those who want to get a good VR experience and a chance to be a part of the VR revolution. Razer will continue to sell its original HDK for $299 and it is available now. The HDK2 has modular system that will take a bit of know-how when switching parts, but many of you will be happy to get your hands on such a system.
One can assume that virtual reality products will continue to evolve and improve. The second-generation HTC and Oculus devices are expected appear next year and hopefully this OSVR will also continue add features and improve hardware.