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Hands-on with the FOVE Eye-Tracking VR HMD

New virtual reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs) are regularly announced with very little in the way of differentiating features. FOVE however, has been doing the rounds for quite some time. It’s only now we get to see exactly why that is, and what it is that will separate FOVE from the pack.

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Two prototypes were offered during VRFocus‘ hands-on time with FOVE. Neither were anywhere near final, but the difference in comfort between the two did well to paraphrase the progress being made. Both were bulky, front-heavy and sat awkwardly on the user’s head, but the newer model (pictured on this page) benefited from a greatly improved form factor. There’s still some work to be done, which can be said about much of what FOVE has to be offer, but this is exactly the reason that Fove, Inc. has opted for a crowd-funding campaign.

The unique aspect of FOVE is its eye-tracking technology. There are many rival firms currently developing eye-tracking for implementation in videogames and VR, but FOVE are the first to mount it directly into a HMD. Despite some small technical errors, the demonstration of this part of the technology was well designed in it’s delivery of the immediacy of the eye-tracking.

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A simple shooting gallery in which flying enemies would appear would require the user to look directly at them in order to fire their weapon. The demo was designed to showcase the speed and accuracy at which the eye-tracking recognition would interpret the user’s intentions. It works, which is obviously the principle requirement, and thus the evolution to more complicated experiences as a logical progression is only a matter of time.

In other regards however, the HMD would clearly struggle to compete with the top tier devices from Oculus VR, Sony Computer Entertainment and the Valve/HTC partnership. The field of view is decidedly limited at present and head-tracking is clearly a lesser concern than eye-tracking. These technical issues will surely be overcome in due course, but at present they arguably work against FOVE due to the fact that the frontrunners have been offering a better solution for many months.

Despite the lesser qualities in form factor, display and head-tracking, the fact that FOVE has one key differentiator is key to the story. This is not a cheap alternative to the industry pioneers nor is it an also-ran device attempting to grab a small piece of the action from an industry which has so much good will at present. FOVE is a HMD that aims to bring something new to the field and is in it for the long run.

Development kits are expected to arrive early in 2016 and a consumer release will follow, potentially placing FOVE in direct competition with the above heavyweights. Should the issues mentioned in this article be brought up to the standard of FOVE’s eye-tracking it could well stand a chance, but the chances of this happening may well rest on the forthcoming crowd-funding campaign. VRFocus will keep you updated with the progress on all aspects of FOVE.