River Snapshot: FOVE prepares to launch a Kickstarter campaign for its eye tracking HMD

by Will Mason • April 27th, 2015

As a part of our ongoing mission to showcase the virtual reality industry’s hottest startups we headed over to River, Rothenberg Ventures’ new accelerator program for VR, for an inside look at (a ‘VR Snapshot’ if you will) each of the 13 companies (selected from a group of 200) in the program, before their big demo day Monday.


They say the eyes are the window to the soul, and it’s true, the eyes tell a story – but it goes far beyond social expressiveness. Human vision is an incredibly complex concept, the evolution of the human eye is something of incredible wonder – what it was not evolved for was seeing 3D in the way we currently are displaying it, stereoscopically. When we move our eyes around they focus on objects on different planes, this is how we produce a sense of depth. Stereoscopic 3D attempts to mimic the effect of 3D by layering two images and creating an illusion of depth that is both unnatural and doesn’t produce a thoroughly realistic experience. For the time being this has been… well just ok, but as virtual reality continues to develop, stereoscopic 3D simply isn’t going to cut it, but eye tracking will.

Eye tracking would allow for you to more accurately replicate the way the eye focuses on planes of depth in VR, and that is just one of the many important things that it would bring to the table. From UI design to realistic AI interaction to better targeting in first person shooters, eye tracking will revolutionize everything about VR to the point that it should almost be considered a necessary requirement; and right now nobody is doing eye tracking for VR better than FOVE.

FOVE is currently preparing to launch a Kickstarter for its eye tracked HMD. I have had the chance to try the FOVE multiple times in the past, and have been impressed by how accurate it was each time. There simply is something epically awesome about shooting robots with eye lasers. I sat down with FOVE’s extremely busy CTO, Lochlainn Wilson, to learn more about the headset and the company’s plans for the future.

Who is FOVE?

We are making the first HMD with built in eye tracking.

What is the team’s background?

FOVE Is comprised of a team of 6 that spans 3 countries, Australia, Japan and the United States. Yuka Kojima, Co-Founder and CEO has serious industry experience from SCE/Playstation. Lochlainn Wilson, Co-Founder and CTO is a mathematician, programmer and hardware hacker.
FOVE was founded with the premise of enabling the unique, subtle and interesting experiences required for true immersion in VR.

When did FOVE begin?

It began with an idea from Yuka: Eye contact in gaming.

The project that seeded FOVE began late 2012 with the idea to create an experience where a player makes an emotional connection through eye contact with a character in virtual reality. As we worked we received a lot of extremely positive feedback and eventually decided to create FOVE in Japan as a serious startup. FOVE rocketed through the japanese ecosystem and has been launched onto the world stage through the great feedback and response of the media and VR community.

Where is FOVE now?

FOVE has a working prototype. We run a WQHD (2560×1440) display, with a custom IMU and two low latency eye tracking sensors.

We are preparing to launch a kickstarter campaign soon, so stay tuned for more details!

Why is eye tracking important?

Emotional experience. Immersion. Control.

Eye tracking touches on many of the subtle areas of VR that have traditionally been overlooked. Characters can be aware of your perception and respond to it in ways that are otherwise uniquely reserved for conscious, living beings.

Depth of field can be accurately simulated, leading to increased sense of presence and immersion. Motion sickness is addressed by limiting the amount of head movement required in VR. We also have the potential to expand the market by reducing the computational costs associated with rendering VR content by enabling Foveated Rendering, or focusing fidelity in the center of your field of vision.


 

Currently, the FOVE is only available for trade shows and private demos, but that will hopefully be changing in the near future with the Kickstarter project. Eye tracking is going to change VR forever, and only for the better. It’s time to get on the eye train.

 

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