Acer will help design, build, market and promote the upcoming StarVR Virtual Reality headset, along with Starbreeze Entertainment, for use in theme parks and the entertainment industry, under a joint-venture agreement between the two companies.
The agreement focuses on developing the StarVR, a head-mounted display that Starbreeze has been planning for more than a year to bring VR experiences to a wide range of customers in dedicated VR entertainment facilities around the world.
Starbreeze has been showing early designs of the planned product at gaming events over the last year, since the company acquired the French company Infinite Eye, which originally created the StarVR HMD concept, according to Starbreeze. Starbreeze also acquired Infinite Eye’s engineering team under that deal. Starbreeze broadened its VR headset strategy in January when the company announced that it is also pursuing its StarCade initiative, which aims to create and build interactive virtual reality entertainment centers where customers can go to immerse themselves into premium VR experiences.
Starbreeze, which is based in Sweden, unveiled its partnership with Acer in a May 15 announcement.
“Since our launch in June 2015, we have had an amazing start with StarVR,” Bo Andersson Klint, CEO of Starbreeze, said in a statement. “By partnering with Acer we shift gears yet again to firmly position us as the leader in top-end VR experiences. Acer is an excellent, experienced and prominent hardware partner that will accelerate us in realizing and producing a high-definition, high-fidelity VR headset.”
Klint said the company had “been working with a clear roadmap for our VR strategy from day one, and [we] are now about to realize one of the first major collaborations we set out to achieve. The future for StarVR is now set and extremely exciting.”
Starbreeze first showed off its StarVR plans by demonstrating it at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in June 2015, according to the company.
Maeva Sponbergs, a spokesperson for Starbreeze, told eWEEK in an email reply to an inquiry that those public demos have given small groups of consumers a chance to try out the early version of the headsets, including on a tour last fall for “Overkill’s The Walking Dead” video game. “We have built several headsets that had been used by consumers on that tour,” she wrote.
All early headsets built so far have been internally created units, she added.
The deal with Acer is “pending completion” and still requires approval by the boards of each company, she said. “We still have to have discussions to close the contract.”
No specifications or pricing information has yet been announced about the future StarVR headset, she added.
And while the company first plans to build the devices for the entertainment industry and amusement parks, a consumer version is potentially possible as well, said Sponbergs. “We haven’t closed the door on a consumer version; we’re only saying pro-markets are our focus initially.”
Jason Chen, president and CEO of Acer, said in a statement that his company is “thrilled to join forces with Starbreeze in bringing the StarVR head-mounted display to the market. We are devoting R&D resources across multiple aspects of the VR ecosystem for a coherent and high-quality experience.”
In April, Acer unveiled a refreshed product line with a wide range of new notebooks, gaming machines and a new Chromebook in a global launch event. The devices included the Predator 17 X gaming notebook and a Predator G1 desktop machine, which are both aimed at gaming and VR enthusiasts.
The VR headset marketplace is continuing to grow with new entrants.
Samsung’s $100 Gear VR headset, which went on sale last fall, allows users to view video games, movies and more in immersive new ways, according to an earlier eWEEK story. The Samsung Gear VR is a consumer version of virtual-reality headsets made by Oculus.
Sony’s $399 Playstation VR headset was announced in March and is slated for an October release to add virtual-reality game play to PlayStation entertainment systems.
In late March, Oculus began shipping its long-awaited $599 Oculus Rift virtual-reality headsets to early buyers. In May, the company began offering a limited number of the devices in select Best Buy stores and online from Microsoft and Amazon. The Rift is equipped with dual active-matrix organic LED (AMOLED) displays that are designed to provide users with incredible visual clarity as they explore virtual worlds with the device. The Rift also uses an infrared LED constellation tracking system that provides precise, low-latency 360-degree orientation and position tracking for users for accurate and fluid control and operation when playing games and simulations.