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Finnish companies augment all kinds of experiences

FLEXOUND creates immersive experiences for the home and cinema. 


Companies in Finland are re-defining various consumer experiences, be it with virtual-reality headsets or seats equipped with motion and personal audio systems.

Varjo, a Helsinki-based provider of professional-grade virtual and mixed-reality hardware and software, announced last month it has received around 41 million euros in funding from a group of investors including Taiwan’s Foxconn, one of the most prominent electronics contract manufacturers in the world.

The Finnish company indicated that the capital injection will be used to develop the mixed-reality streaming platform it announced in April, Varjo Reality Cloud. The capital will also enable it to scale its hardware and software across new verticals such as education, engineering, healthcare, and design and manufacturing.

Timo Toikkanen, CEO of Varjo, viewed that the funding is evidence of recognition for the company’s ability to grow amid increasing interest in mixed reality among enterprises.

“The vision for a true-to-life metaverse for professionals is already here, and we are proud to be the first and only company in the world to continue to deliver human-eye resolution virtual and mixed-reality technology to the largest and most iconic enterprises in the world,” he commented.

Varjo and Next Level Racing have announced a partnership to showcase ultimate racing simulation experiences at industry events. Image: Varjo

Its hardware and software are used by more than a quarter of Fortune 500 companies, including Aston Martin, Boeing, Kia, Lockheed Martin and Volvo Cars, along with various governmental departments in Europe and the US.

Varjo has also entered into a partnership with Next Level Racing, a leading producer of high-end racing simulator cockpits. The partners, it told, will combine their offerings to showcase ultimate immersion racing experiences with lifelike movements and unrivalled visual immersion at industry events.

“Collaborating with Next Level Racing shows the combined commitment between both companies to grow the sim racing community further and to create the best-of-the-best racing experience,” estimatedRune Huse Karlstad, head of racing simulation at Varjo.

The joint setup will be first demonstrated at PAX Australia in Melbourne on 7–9 October.

One of Varjo’s more outrageous-sounding enterprises is making photorealistic virtual teleportation a reality with its high-resolution virtual-reality headset. The headset is capable of re-creating the world accurately at tremendous speeds as the user scans their surroundings. The digital feed can then be sent to the cloud and shared with others to allow them to “teleport” to the user.

The European Investment Bank granted Varjo 20 million euros in debt financing to mitigate the challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic, enabling it to remain competitive with industry giants like Meta, Google and Microsoft. Image: Varjo

“With our technology, you’ll be able to capture your surroundings in 3D and then invite somebody else to join that same exact reality,” Urho Konttori, chief technology officer at the company, told the European Investment Bank in June.

“The best part is that you are able to edit and modify this shared 3D reality together, as you would edit a photo or a video.”

The ability to digitally re-create your surroundings simply by scanning them also offers tangible benefits for organisations involved in building and fleshing out the metaverse, according to Konttori.

“As counter-intuitive as it might sound, this metaverse grounded in reality scales faster than a pre-rendered metaverse that you need to build from scratch,” he stated. “It’s by far the fastest, easiest and most scalable way of building a collaborative virtual space.”

USD 13 trillion metaverse by 2030

The metaverse represents one of the more lucrative opportunities for hardware and software companies today. Citi, a multinational investment bank headquartered in New York City, estimated in a report earlier this year that the metaverse could grow to have as many as five billion users and a value of 13 trillion US dollars by the end of the decade.

The hurdles are substantial, though. The metaverse will require enormous amounts of content, materials and infrastructure to fulfil its grand promise of fusing the real and digital worlds seamlessly into a single immersive experience.

Analysts at Citi viewed that the environment will “likely require” a thousand-fold improvement in computational efficiency and investments in areas such as “compute, storage, network infrastructure, consumer hardware and game development platforms”.

The Helsinki-based company Port6 is developing sensors that provide a sense of touch and manipulation in the metaverse. Image: Port6

Among the Finnish companies contributing to what is the latest frontier of cyberspace are Dispelix, Immersal, Port6 and the Helsinki-based creator of virtual worlds, events and content, ZOAN.

The latter struck a partnership earlier this year via its subsidiary Burst Live to recreate the 1990s Brooklyn of The Notorious B.I.G. in the Brook Metaverse. The project aims to re-create the borough to offer fans of the deceased rap legend an opportunity to explore his musical roots, attend virtual concerts and interact with the environment, including by buying real estate and non-fungible tokens.

Petra Söderling, then senior advisor at Business Finland, outlined how Finnish expertise can help to usher the metaverse, layer by layer, from buzz into reality in a column for Good News from Finland earlier this year. The key, she argued, is existing commercially viable industrial use cases such as the immersive servicing of manufacturing facilities.

Finnish vibes at French cinema

Flexound’s augmented audio solution brings the cinema experience to a new level. Image: Flexound

Multisensory experiences are also the speciality of Flexound, a developer of augmented audio solutions based in Espoo, Southern Finland.

Flexound announced in spring that its solution has been installed to provide personal immersive audio and physical vibration through the seats of an auditorium of Cineum Cannes. The multiplex also served as an official screening location for Cannes Film Festival 2022. Laurent Raffaëlli, director of the French cinema, described the addition of the multi-sensory technology as the “icing on the cake” for the experience offered by the architecturally futuristic cinema.

“The technology enables much clearer dialogue, increased dynamic range and additional natural vibration, enabling an emotional intake of sound that cannot be matched through traditional speakers,” he commented.

Cinemas featuring Flexsound’s solution are currently found on two continents.

OptoFidelity, meanwhile, has developed a model human head that measures the performance of virtual and augmented-reality headsets across six degrees of freedom. The frame of the head slides sideways on a rail, rotates around its axis, and raises and lowers to mimic the movements of headset users.

Hardware developers can utilise the measurements not only to optimise image quality factors such as sharpness and colour fidelity, but also to identify problems such as deviations.

The Tampere-based company has identified motion-to-photon (MTP) latency – the delay between head movement and its visible implementation in the virtual world – as a particularly important metric.

“MTP latencies of more than 10 ms are experienced and cause spatial disorientation and dizziness, referred to as VR sickness or motion sickness,” says the company’s senior technical account manager Murat Deveci. “A low MTP latency also improves the video see-through comfort, as well as hologram stability. For these reasons, reducing MTP latency is critical in providing the best immersive experience to HMD users.”

Deveci also points out that OptoFidelity BUDDY uses a novel, patented method to measure the end-to-end (E2E) latency.

The company numbers Google, Intel, AMD, Qualcomm, Lenovo, ASUS, Samsung and the US Army among its customers.

By: Aleksi Teivainen