2023 WorldViz Budgeting Guidelines for Scientific VR Labs

June 21, 2022

Sado Rabaudi & Dan Tinkham

WorldViz presents its 2023 update to cost considerations for VR hardware, software and application development for scientists looking to start or upgrade their VR research lab.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., June 21, 2022 - WorldViz is pleased to present its “2023 Budgeting Guidelines for Scientific VR Labs”. Designed for scientists interested in conducting VR research, this updated guide not only discusses the latest VR headsets such as the HP Reverb G2 Omnicept, HTC VIVE Pro 2, Oculus Quest 2 and Varjo VR-3, but also covers 3D projection, rendering computers, motion tracking and other sensors, VR software, facilities, personnel, installation, training and support.

We give you an overview and also show you typical examples of total system costs at different levels.  Whether you are just starting out and looking for the most cost effective way to get up and running or preparing to make a large investment to build a state of the art VR facility, this information is for you to get a successful start. For specific pricing information, or to discuss your project with our experts, please email us at sales@worldviz.com or request a quote.

What goes into a VR project budget?

When you pencil out what you will need for a proper VR project, there are some important building blocks to consider. First, will you be using a VR headset or a VR projection system, or both? Second, you’ll need a rendering computer with ample graphics capabilities, and possible wide-area motion tracking and other sensor systems such as eye tracking or biofeedback. Third, you’ll need VR software for creating and rendering your applications. Last but not least, you’ll want to think about your facilities, personnel, installation, training and support. Here is an overview of each component to give you an idea of what you may want to spend.

Primary VR Headset Displays used in VR Scientific Labs

  • Oculus Quest 2: $299-$399
  • Vive Pro Eye Full Kit: $1,399- $1,599
  • HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Windows Mixed Reality: $1,249

How to Decide which VR Headset is Right for You

In our experience we have seen the Oculus Quest 2, Vive Pro Eye and HP Reverb G2 Omicept Edition being the primary headset utilized by academic and commercial virtual reality labs.

The Oculus Quest 2 is the most cost effective solution and has the benefit of being able to run either tethered to a PC for high performance or independently as a completely wireless device, either with its own independent operating system (based off of Android) or by using Air Link, a wireless streaming solution for use in combination with a PC.

Here is a detailed breakdown of the specifications of these three primary headsets:

HP Reverb G2 Omnicept Edition

  • LCD screens with 2160 x 2160 resolution per eye, for a total resolution of 4320 x 2160.
  • 98 Degree FOV
  • 120 hz eye tracking, 90 Hz Display
  • “Sub Degree” gaze accuracy
  • Integrated Heart Rate + Face Camera to determine cognitive load for enterprise and research applications
  • “Inside-out” tracking, meaning no external tracking devices required, 6DOF motion tracking achieved through onboard outward facing cameras
  • MSRP $1,249

HTC Vive Pro Eye

  • The first “pro-sumer” eye tracking headset and the most popular
  • Dual OLED display with a total combined resolution of 2880 x 1600.
  • 120 hz eye tracking, 90 Hz Display
  • 110 Field of View
  • “Outside-in” 6DOF Tracking with Base Stations external tracking sensors that need to be mounted in the corners of a room to establish tracking space
  • MSRP $1,399

Meta Oculus Quest 2

  • Leading consumer headset from Meta (AKA Facebook)
  • Standalone functionality and PC via Air Link or Link Cable
  • Single LCD with a total resolution 3664 x 1920 Combined, 89 degree Field of View
  • 120 hz capable display, adaptive frame rate
  • “Inside-Out” Tracking
  • MSRP $299 or $399 depending on storage configuration
  • No built in eye tracking but gaze can be calculated by heading direction

Additional “Prosumer” VR Headsets

  • Vive Cosmos/Elite Line: $749
  • Vive Pro 2 Full Kit: $1,399
  • HP Reverb G2 Windows Mixed Reality: $599
  • Valve Index: $999
  • Pico Neo 3

Specialty VR Headsets

  • StarVR One: $3,200

           210 FOV/ Eye tracking/ Auto IPD/ Vive Base Station “outside-in” tracking

  • VRGineers XTAL announced: $5,800

           180 FOV 8K / Eye tracking / Auto IPD / Built in LEAP Motion Support / Lighthouse tracking

  • Varjo VR-3 announced: $3,195  

           70 PPD in center / Eye tracking /Lighthouse tracking/ Built in UltraLeap Hand Tracking

  • Varjo XR-3: $5,995

            Varjo’s AR version of the VR-3

  • Pimax HMDs: $449~$1,299

           12k Version expected in Q4 2022 - 8K Plus, 8K X - 14 PPD / 5K Plus, 5K XR / Artisan / Lighthouse external tracking /  170-200 FOV

   

Full Projection Systems (including rendering computer and all supporting components)

  • One wall stereo Projection VR system: Cost dependent on projector, rendering hardware, mounting and tracking requirements. Typically $15,000 ~ $30,000.
  • Multi projector with multi wall systems: Hardware cost determined by type and numbers of projectors, rendering hardware, mounting requirements and blending requirements ROM: $50,000 ~ $85,000 for 2-sided integrated Projection VR system and installation. $100,000+ for a multi-sided showroom.
  • Traditional “CAVE” type system with rear projection array, cinema class projectors, floor projection, motion tracking. ROM: $250K - $500K all the way up to $1 Million plus depending on size and sophistication. These systems have a very large physical footprint.

Direct View LED

  • An emerging class of immersive virtual reality / mixed reality systems is based on direct view LED technology to create an alternative to CAVE / Projection VR systems. These systems would be very bright and have a low physical footprint but would have unique facilities requirements including temperature management and power consumption.Cost is variable depending on the area that needs to be covered by LED panels but typically the cost is double to triple that per square foot as a high end CAVE system, i.e. $1 million + depending on size and configuration.

Rendering Computer and Graphics

  • For VR headsets: The rendering computer requirements are similar to a high end computer gamer setup. Currently the highest end is nVidia 3090 GPU but 3070 and 3080 are good alternatives and more widely available. For CPU an Intel Core i7 or i9  processor is recommended. Speed of the processor is more important than multiple cores. The cost for such a computer setup is $1,000 ~ $5,000.
  • For Projection Systems: One Wall Projector or Multi Projector Multi Wall systems computer cost is $2,500 ~ $6,000. Graphic cards nVidia Quadro 5k/6k is $1,950 ~ $4,300 per unit. Multiple units may be needed if the system is multi-sided.

Hardware - Tracking

  • For consumer VR headsets: Basic tracking is included in VR headset price for Oculus Quest, Valve Cosmo and Windows Mixed Reality headsets such as the HP Reverb. These VR headsets contain inside out tracking for hand controllers and VR headset position. The Vive Pro 2 and Vive Pro Eye require an additional external tracking system called Base Station which is typically included in the purchase bundle.
  • For scientists and researchers who are utilizing consumer VR headsets but require a higher degree of accuracy and resolution or access to absolute position tracking data they may need to purchase a specialized optical positioning system such as the WorldViz PPT system pictured below. The cost for such a system starts at $28,000 to track a single VR headset user in a 30 x 30 ft area.
  • For projection system: Specialized tracking is needed if hand and head tracking is required for first person interactivity. This type of system costs typically between $18,000 (Wall configuration) and $28,000 (Corner configuration) depending on the number of projectors.

Hardware - Sensors

Sensor is the hardware to record or input additional data about users or environment. It can influence an application directly or provide researchers with more context for participants. Sensors are use case specific and primarily utilized in research applications.

Typical sensor functionality and pricing:

  • Eye Tracking: $200 ~ $1,700 as built-in or add-on
  • Bio-Physio measurement: $8,000 ~ $20,000
  • Haptic Devices / Force Feedback: $50,000 +
  • Mocap: Starter system is around $20,000+
  • Data Gloves: $4,000 ~ $20,000

Hardware - Motion Capture

Motion capture technology can play an important role in both VR production as well as specialty VR research applications. For production, “MoCap” is a valuable tool for generating human avatar animations in the development of video games, training applications, social scenarios and more. For researchers, motion capture technology provides necessary data for extremity tracking applications in the fields of kinesiology, sports sciences, and neuroscience.

Some of the most popular professional motion capture system manufacturers include:

  • Xsens (inertial based tracking system)
  • Optitrack (optical tracking system)
  • Vicon (optical tracking system)

Pricing can vary but we would recommend budgeting at least $25,000 to cover hardware and software costs for a single user motion capture system.

A low cost alternative to traditional professional motion capture systems is the Vive Tracker 3.0 which is used with the Vive Base Station tracking system. A minimum of three Vive Tracker 3.0 plus specialized straps is around $400 USD (not including the base station / Vive system). This article covers how the Vive Base Station + Vive Tracker can be used as a MoCap alternative.

Real Time Rendering Software

Game engines:

  • Unity: $1,800 ~ $2,400 per year; per seat
  • Unreal: Free initially. After commercial success, 5% royalties for sales over 1 million

Scientific engines:

  • WorldViz Vizard: $4,000 ~ $6,000 per academic permanent license. $6,000~$10,000 per commercial perpetual license. Multi-seat licenses start at $2,000 per academic perpetual license

Optional 3D modeling tools:

  • 3DS Max
  • Maya
  • Sketchfab
  • Blender

Facilities

Depending on research or presentation goals, your existing facilities might need to be modified somewhat to fit a VR lab or a demo room. Facilities cost can be as low as zero if a fitting room is already available. If re-modeling is needed, it can be a substantial budget, typically $10k to $100k.

  • For corner projection systems: Flat uniform walls with white matt paint in a room with ideally high ceilings.
  • For room layout: Use energy saving lighting and block out daylight and sunlight. Eliminate reflective surfaces by using carpet or rubberized flooring.

Personnel

At least one person is in charge and appointed to be the go-to person for any changes, updates or technical questions. We recommend a small team of 2 or 3 people fully or partially in charge of the VR system, specifically if they are used by a large group of users.

  • Cost for VR personnel in your facility depends on salary levels.

Installation

A small ready-to-use system like a laptop + VR headset or the WorldViz Vizbox does not require installation. It’s portable and made to work “out of the box”. Large systems like projection setups require substantial work. Installation cost also depends on location for travel cost and time.

  • Cost for installation: Typical cost for a one-person installation (if required) varies from $2,000 ~ $10,000 depending on location, install duration and requirements for the system scope.

Training

Typical systems come with a minimum of ½  day training. For a group of new users, we recommend 1 ~ 4 days of on-site or remote training depending on system complexity and goals.

  • Cost for training: Often around $1,000 ~ $8,000 depending on length and location of the training and required level of training (entry or advanced).
  • On site training is typically more costly than remote training.

Support

Most WorldViz systems come with a one year hardware warranty and Silver level support- access to a ticket based support system with less than 24 hour turnaround time. Extension of support agreements are dependent on complexity of the supported setup and hardware.

  • Cost for support: WorldViz support costs 10% ~ 15% of the total system cost per year. The exact amount will depend on system specifics, location, expected support level and purchased period.

VR Application Development Considerations

VR Application can be done in house or outsourced by hiring a company like WorldViz. Phases of VR development includes:

  • Pre-production: Identifying project goals and storyboarding
  • Prototyping: Mock up / gray boxing with placeholder assets
  • Milestones: Graphics development and logic
  • Quality assurance: Testing and fixing bugs
  • Distribution and execution

VR Application Development - Graphics

  • Purchasing art assets

Assets can be purchased from Sketchfab, Turbosquid, Unity Store, 3D Warehouse and more. Many purchased assets require a clean up. Prices range from $10 ~ $1,000.

  • Developing art assets

In house or hiring 3D artists for custom graphic development for conversion of CAD models to VR ready assets, Photogrammetry or traditional modeling by hand.

VR Application Development - Programming  

Many modules and example scripts exist in online tutorials, i.e. WorldViz provides demo source codes. Leverage student programmers or your own programming team. WorldViz programming services can be hired at an hourly rate. Most popular VR programming languages:

  • Unity: C#
  • Unreal: C++
  • Vizard: Python

Custom Development - Hiring A Studio

Cost for “soup-to-nuts” custom application development can vary widely. When existing resources can be used or purchased cheaply, the minimum cost for a from scratch projects can often start around $15,000. If art needed to be custom produced, a typical project costs between $50,000 ~ $100,000. Budgets can go up from there depending on requirements.

Typical VR Project Budgeting Examples

Low Cost System - Barebone DIY Budget - $1, 500

  • Pre-configured gaming computer: $1,000
  • Low cost VR headset such as Oculus Quest 2:  $299
  • Free and open source software and in house development: Free

Commercial Integrated System Budget Options - $8,000 ~ $20,000

  • WorldViz Headset VR - Vizard + Computer + VR Headset: $8,000 ~ $15,000
  • WorldViz Headset VR with Eye Tracking: $10,000 ~ $20,000
  • WorldViz Vizbox: $5,000 ~ $10,000

Projection and Specialty System Budget - $50,000 ~ $75,000

Fully integrated projection system with installation - $50,000 ~ $75,000

For specific pricing information please email WorldViz at sales@worldviz.com or request a quote HERE.

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