Fove Virtual Reality Headset

HMD Name: Fove (Developer kit)
Designer: Fove
Estimated price $350 (Developer kit)
Display type: LCD (not final)
Resolution: 1280×1440 per eye
Field of view: 45 degrees (100+ projected feature)
Head tracking: Yes
Eye Tracking: Yes, infrared, 120fps per eye
Audio: Own headphones (projected feature)
Refresh rate: 60Hz (90Hz projected)
Latency: TBA/Unknown
Optics: TBA/Unknown
Inputs: TBA
Type: Tethered to computer

The FOVE is a relatively new entrant into the now fairly crowded HMD marketplace. It is named after the ‘fovea’ of the eye, which has the highest visual acuity, and is also an acronym for ‘Field of View’. Like the Oculus Rift, the Fove began life as a Kickstarter project, and has now received additional funding from Samsung, although details of this arrangement are not currently known.

The Fove’s claim to fame is that it brings eye-tracking technology to the HMD. The product’s tagline is ‘The world’s first eye tracking virtual reality headset’. Eye tracking, as we covered in a bit more detail here, has some really fascinating implications for the world of virtual reality technology, as it not only detects the direction your head is facing, but also precisely tracks the point at which your gaze is focused.

The headset’s ability to track the user’s eye can allow for some really immersive character interaction; characters might dynamically react to your gaze, or use eye contact as another way to know your intentions. Imagine a Pokemon game where you can walk around, when BAM, you’ve actually locked eyes with another trainer. Now you have to battle.

The most interesting application of the Fove’s eye tracking ability may however lie elsewhere; in its approach to rendering graphics. Its namesake, the fovea, is the part of the eye responsible for sharp vision. To build up a complete picture in sharp clarity, our brain performs constant small movements known as saccades, which scans our field of view with the fovea. Fove have come up with something they have named ‘foveated rendering’, where the GPU commits resources to the part of the scene it knows your fovea is scanning at that moment, and dumps details from the places you’re temporarily ignoring. In theory, this will allow for a lower performance GPU to provide rendering quality on par with the much more powerful chips that would be needed to render the entire scene in full detail. This could turn out to be a game-changer, given how powerful a computer has to be to render the 90fps minimum VR needs for a smooth, realistic feel. This goes up to 120fps when you’re looking at use with something like the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.

At the time of writing not too much concrete detail is known about the Fove, but with its innovative ideas, it is definitely worth keeping your fovea on it.

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