FOVE Bets on Eye Tracking to Win the VR War

The VR war is kicking into high-gear. Oculus Rift and Facebook made the first leap, and now plenty of companies are jumping on board. Sony has Project Morpheus, Microsoft has HoloLens, Samsung has Gear VR and HTC/Steam have their own VR project. The playing field is getting crowded and each headset is going to have to have something unique if it wants to survive. In comes FOVE, another VR headset with the unique ability to track eye movements. They could be onto something.

FOVE’s stats are standard. The headset comes packed with a 5.6in, 2560×1440 resolution display with a field of view of 100 degrees. Framerates run at 60fps with the potential to go higher. Low latency orientation tracking has already been implemented with optical position tracking currently in development. The goal is to get eye tracking down to < 0.1 degree, a tall order, but one the team is confident they’ll hit.

FOVE 01

These are just words though. Was FOVE able to deliver the goods? To a degree, yes. I was able to try a very early demo of the VR headset and did notice some issues. The demo shown involved aliens with the player character having to shoot them out of the sky with laserbeams. The combination of moving my head and eyes to shoot down aliens felt natural, though not very fluid. FOVE had a few hiccups and there were a few times it wouldn’t read my eye movements.

The demo was fun, and made me feel like Superman, but restricted to using laserbeams. My issue with VR has always been about gameplay. I have yet to see any developer create a VR demo that genuinely feels like it can be its own 8-12 hour game. Kinect faced a similar problem, failing to give gamers that core experience they’d been promised. FOVE is no different. It’s a cool idea, but the developers haven’t won me over on the gaming front. I do, however, foresee FOVE being working well with other applications.

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FOVE seems tailor made for UI navigation. As our dashboards and desktops get filled with more and more applications, being able to select exactly what you want just by looking at it is really convenient. Overall, I could see this product being beneficial for people with disabilities. They’ll be able to quickly access what they’re looking for, type on virtual keyboards and interact with virtual worlds in ways they may not have before. If FOVE can nail down the gaming aspect, gamers with disabilities can control the camera with their heads and aim with the eyes. FOVE has great potential and I can’t wait to see what the developers do in the coming months.

FOVE is currently an early prototype. Like all technology, this is just the beginning of the headset’s life, and we’ll see changes as it approaches release. While Morpheus came away from GDC with the most praise, I think FOVE, once polished, will turn out to be something special. The inclusion of eye-tracking technology was daring, but could end up giving FOVE the advantage it needs to survive the onslaught of VR headsets coming to market. FOVE needs some nurturing before that release, but out of all the VR headsets, FOVE has the most potential to improve lives.