Chinese startup EM3 announced what they have been working on. The thinnest and lightest, 6.8mm and 35 grams VR headset, codenamed Ether. A form factor to be achieved through the novel pancake lens. An optics technology expected to introduce a wave of thin and light VR headsets.
The main selling proposition of the EM3 Ether is the thin and light form factor. It’s only 6.8mm thick and weighs less than 35 grams.
The announced prototype will also be able to connect with your smartphone, game console, or computer. It will be capable of broadcasting 2D content onto the 800-inch virtual screen. A micro-OLED display with a resolution of 2,500×2,500 pixels per eye and a field of view of 90-degrees.
Interestingly, what enables the Ether’s thin form factor and subsequent millimeter distance between the screen and lens is the “pancake optics design”. An alternative lens technology to the standard Fresnel lens and one that the announced premium HMD “Cambria” from Meta also utilizes. This novel lens technology bounces light from the display within the lens itself, enabling a much closer distance between the display – lens – and your eyes, which translates to a much slimmer design overall. Further specifications are yet to be released.
The Chinese startup EM3 announced through the Chinese blog 7tin their upcoming headset, codenamed Ether. EM3 began its journey on Kickstarter with its first HMD named “Stellar” also adopting a similar stylistic design language. However, alleged complications in shipping, technical problems, and overall customer reviews have plagued the EM3 Stellar. So we are yet to see how Ether pans out.
When the Pancake optics design was first released, many expected new slimmer and stylish VR headsets to be introduced. Currently, the standard lens for VR HMDs is the Fresnel lens – an optic technology akin to what lighthouses use. Incidentally, the Fresnel lens is also why VR headsets look like clunky shoeboxes strapped to one’s head.
In essence, this means that a VR headset can look more approachable for non-enthusiasts and appeal to a broader market. As one of the most pivotal turnoffs for the average consumer when deciding their purchase decision on a VR headset is in the bulky design – the Pancake optics lens can bring about alternatives that look more like sunglasses. Additionally, this compact and light design also enables both smartphone tethering and wireless HMDs to grow in popularity, expanding use-cases to VR on the go.
This is something that Meta (former Facebook) will incorporate with their newly announced premium VR headset codenamed Project Cambria, and now also EM3’s prototype: Ether.
However, a thin and light form factor comes with pivotal downsides of no tracking of any kind and lack of space for batteries to enable the aforementioned “VR on-the-go” possibilities. Alternatively, we have seen solutions from other manufacturers to these complications, of tethering the interaction with the headset through one’s smartphone, as in the HTC Vive Flow, also utilizing this so-called pancake lens.
In any case, currently this is what we are capable of now.
Intriguing new VR offerings are introduced, or about to be introduced into the VR market. Which the Chinese startup EM3 is about to be a part of.
This further tightens the competition within the broader, lifestyle-VR market that Meta’s Project Cambria aims to target, and HTC Vive Flow already is targeting. In any case, a pivot away from the VR shoebox design towards more stylistic sunglasses will inevitably enable more consumers to invest in a VR headset. This headset is also a great option for a virtual room, check out these great tips on how to set up your own Virtual Reality room.