Wearable Tech World Feature Article
May 21, 2015

FOVE Headset Offers a New Look at Virtual Reality

The Oculus Rift may have started the fire, but there are plenty of folks looking to get into the virtual reality (VR) market. We heard about one such entry, the Dlodlo, not too long ago, and now another one is making the rounds in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign proving surprisingly attractive: the FOVE headset. With 43 days to go, the FOVE headset is well on its way to completing its goal, thanks to a rather exciting proposition.

The FOVE headset, on many levels, looks like a standard VR headset, a complete head-mounted affair that takes up most of a skull. But the FOVE is actually unique in that it doesn't track head movement so much as it tracks eye movement to determine where focus should be established. The FOVE is actually named after the fovea, or the part of the eye that delivers central vision. Using a process called foveated rendering, the FOVE can track a user's gaze to the part of the image that's being focused on and then focus rendering power in that region so that the part of the image being looked at actually appears in a higher resolution than its surroundings.

Foveated rendering also allows the rest of the image to be rendered at a lower rate, which means that overall processing can be reduced, and thus devices that aren't the powerhouses that PCs are can get in on the action, even devices like smartphones. Another effect is a new potential wrinkle in terms of gameplay; users can focus on different things to produce different effects. One example is a game where characters react differently if the player makes eye contact with said characters. Reports suggest that early next year will feature a software development kit (SDK) that allows developers to bring games into the FOVE ecosystem, but this isn't just about gaming.

Much in the same way Facebook realized the Oculus Rift wasn't to be just a gaming device, the FOVE has already gone beyond that as well. Reports note a teenager with motor neuron disease actually put together some software—helped out by some developers—that allowed him to play the piano by using FOVE to focus on the keys instead of touching same. Those interested in getting in can pre-order a headset via Kickstarter for $399, though an early-bird special is still on hand at $375. $499, meanwhile, guarantees a spot in the first shipment.

Once the Oculus Rift proved that interest was there thanks to the outswelling of support it's received so far, it really shouldn't have been a surprise that more firms would get in on the action as several already have. In fact, it's a reasonably good bet we'll hear some more out of other competitors in the field—and in the wearable tech sector in general—once July 13 – 15 rolls around and the Wearable Tech Expo hits New York City's Jacob Javits Center.

With this many competitors in the market, the winner will likely be the firm that provides the best value. Whether that value is in a top-notch experience or a reasonable price tag—or perhaps a perfect combination of both!—remains to be seen, but one way or another we'll likely see what the market values before too much longer.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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