Canon is releasing its smallest, lightest mixed reality (MR) headset in February. The Canon MREAL S1 can be head-mounted or used handheld, and will carry a price tag of around $38,500.
The Canon MREAL S1 is much smaller and lighter than the manufacturer's previous mixed reality devices, being about the size of a camera phone (opens in new tab) and weighing in at just 137g – which is 250% lighter than the 480g Canon MREAL MD-20.
So, what is mixed reality? It's an environment that merges the physical world with virtual elements in real time, where they can be manipulated and interacted with. It is distinct from virtual reality (VR), which creates entirely virtual environments, and augmented reality (AR), which adds virtual elements in a much less sophisticated way that cannot be physically interacted with.
To create these MR environments, the MREAL S1 boasts two sets of stereoscopic camera arrays. The first array is dedicated to the passthrough image, which renders virtual objects in the physical environment, while the second array is devoted to depth realization, enabling the virtual objects to be placed accurately in the MR space.
Watch video: Canon MREAL S1 overview
As you would expect the headset is fully customizable, enabling users to adjust the fit around the head as well as the position and pitch of the device itself for optimal eye position. Alternatively, the S1 can be handheld in much the same way as a smartphone when exploiting AR material.
The announcement coincides with reports that Apple is developing a VR headset (opens in new tab) of its own, which is likewise expected to be a premium-priced product. However, where the Apple device is still to be aimed at consumers, Canon's headset is intended for industry and enterprise applications – and carries an according price tag.
According to DC Watch (opens in new tab) its pricing will start from ¥4 million (approximately $38,500 / £28,000 / AU$49,900) per system, which includes the main unit, software, PC and maintenance costs.
Canon has been thinking way outside the box recently, stepping away from its bread and butter products like the Canon EOS R5 (opens in new tab) and into conceptual devices like the Canon PowerShot Zoom (opens in new tab) and Canon PowerShot Pick (opens in new tab). We can't wait to see how else it thinks outside the box as the year rolls on!