|Announced||December 2014 |
|Released||Developers: 19 May 2015 
|Operating system||Windows 8.1, Windows 10|
|Field of view||100°|
positional tracking, eye-tracking
FOVE VR is a virtual reality developed by the FOVE Company. As a head mounted display, it belongs to the category of wearable devices. It differs from other HMD VR devices (such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, OSVR or Sony PlayStation VR) because a user interacts with the virtual reality via his eyes. The device has a tracking system with integrated infrared sensor that tracks motion of user’s pupil. Due to this system of control, it promises high level of the user’s immersion.
The FOVE project was announced by the end of 2014 and a Kickstarter project was launched in January 2015. FOVE VR has become the first HMD which is solely controlled by eyes. According to official information, the mass production has already started, however, its release is postponed until fall 2017. For now, it is possible to get developer kit FOVE 0 shipped.
Despite being primarily presented as a game tool that offers users different type of experience in the virtual reality, it could help physically challenged, or elderly people, hence the FOVE, Inc. is participating in the Eye play the piano project and HUG project.
FOVE VR is not standalone device and it has to be connected with a PC via USB, as well as many other head mounted displays. Whole headset weighs 520g and it is fixed by adjustable velcro straps. In contrast to Oculus Rift or HTC Vive FOVE VR is consisted only by a headset due to the central idea of controlling without hands. The possibility of “eye-control” is provided by two infrared eye-tracking sensors with tracking accuracy less than one degree and refreshing rate 120 fps. The WQHD OLED display has total resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, which implies that FOVE VR offers 42 percent more pixels than other HMDs. Furthermore, frame rate of the display is 70 fps and screen diagonal of 14.7 cm. Field of view may vary due to distance to the lenses and face structure but it is approximately 100 degree.
Tracking system consists of two types of tracking system. The first, orientation tracking IMU (Inertial Measurement Unit) is monitoring motion of the head. And the other, IR-based position tracking, is monitoring not only motion of user's eyes but also motion of the head. FOVE VR has similar technical requirements like HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. More precisely, it requires no less than operating system Win 8 64-bit or Win 10 64-bit, processor Intel core i5-4590, graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 and memory 8 GB.
Although the company promises high level of immersion thanks to eye-tracking system, FOVE VR has not got integrated headphones or sensors that enable move in virtual reality. It might be a considerable disadvantage in comparison to HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. However, it has to be mentioned that device is still updated and improvements such as addition of audio ports, reduction of weight to the 400g, augmentation of frame rate to the 90 fps and tracking accuracy less than 0.2 degree are projected.
Company & People
At the beginning FOVE, Inc. was represented by three co-workers:
- Yuka Kojima – Co-founder and CEO
- Lochlainn Wilson – Co-founder and CTO
- Scott Harper – Creative director
However the team has been enlarged to 25 co-workers up today.
- 12th May 2014 - Foundation
- July 2014 - Supported by Microsoft Ventures Accelerator London
- February 2015 - Supported by Rothenberg Ventures River VR Accelerator
- 19th May 2015 - Kickstarter project
- 4th July 2015 - End of a kickstarter project
- November 2015 - cooperation with Project HUG
- Spring 2016 - Shipping of developer kits has started
FOVE VR provides simulation of reality that means it can be used in various areas such as gaming, health care, movies, education, social communication and development like many other head mounted displays. Today, it cannot be clearly said whether it is primarily aimed at gaming or not. Due to eye-tracking, FOVE VR can effectively help in cases of physically challenged, elderly people or people with restricted use of their hands. For example, quadriplegics would be able to control their PC with minimal assistance.
In December 2014, the Eye play the piano project was presented and there was also demonstrated a great potential of eye-tracking and 4th prototype of FOVE VR. The HUG project is a collaborative project of Creative Orca, Fove, Inc. and Keio Media Design and it is primarily aimed at elderly people that cannot be in distant places. It is a technical cooperation between personal robot Pepper and eye-tracking headset FOVE. A person could be “present” via Pepper the robot in distant places. While the person is sitting at home with headset FOVE VR, Pepper the robot is moving in distant places.
Taking into consideration the enormous possibilities of virtual reality in treatment (e.g. ADHD, mental disorder, autism, Asperger syndrome or treatment of alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.), FOVE VR could be used there as well.
Ethical & Health Issues
In general, there are no ethical issues directly connected with the FOVE VR. Nevertheless, it is necessary to take into consideration the ethical issues that are connected with head mounted displays and virtual reality. FOVE, Inc. promises high degree of immersion due to eye-tracking. As it is mentioned on the official website: “A full sense of presence in the virtual world.”. However, high immersion was classified as a risk factor for addiction.
Taking into consideration eye-tracking, human eyes are able to protect themselves against optical radiation such as ultraviolet radiation and infrared radiation. The infrared rays used in most eye trackers are not harmful, in general. However, it depends on wavelength of the infrared radiation. In the context of the eye trackers, the thermal injury of the retina (wavelengths from 400 nm to 1400 nm). And near-infrared thermal hazards to the lens (wavelengths between 800 nm and 3000 nm) must be taking into consideration. The FOVE, Inc. stated that they use dim light causing no discomfort, drying or damage to the eyes, even if the product is overused. They also recommend to use FOVE VR 30 minutes and not it is recommended to the children younger than 13 years old.
It must be also mentioned typical problems connected with HMD’s in general. The recommended time sequence is not only due to infrared light but also because of well-known cyber sickness which is connected with head mounted displays (e.g. Oculus Rift, HTC Vive). Moreover, the weight may cause potential problems with cervical spine or headache, differences in eye-distance may cause nausea or headache, etc.
Public & Media Impact and Presentation
There is quite a few articles about FOVE VR. It might be said that all of them are quite positive. However, these articles are mostly aimed at eye-tracking and its great potential. As it was written by Hugh Langley in his article Eyes on with Fove's VR headset: Less virtual, more reality:
“Eye tracking is no gimmick; it's where virtual reality has to go, and Fove can proudly say it was first out of the gate.”
Although articles are predominantly full of expectation, due to fact that FOVE VR is still only a developer kit, reviews and opinions are mostly full of disappointment. Surprisingly, the price is not criticised. Nonetheless, users miss motion controllers and audio ports; low refresh rate of images is also criticized. Higher tiredness of eyes was mentioned, as well. For example, user Im794 wrote in discussion about FOVE Launches Pre-Orders For Eye-Tracking VR Headset FOVE 0, Starting at $549 on reddit.com:
”That sounds... bad? 70hz display. A single IR camera for tracking with no rear tracking. And... no audio ports? It really just doesn't sound that great, certainly not worth downgrading to just for the sake of eye tracking. Not to mention, you then have to hope that the experiences you want to play even support the eye tracking feature. I don't see this lasting.”
In comparison with HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, FOVE VR offers a user only eye tracking and it is evidently not enough for game players who want to move freely in virtual reality. For all that, eye tracking is still well-marked advantage and FOVE VR is considered to be a third horse in the race between HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.
Eye-tracking system was registred as a patent US 7391887 in 2008 but it is also published as CA2457090A1, CA2457090C, EP1417645A1, US20040196433, WO2003017203A1.
Related Technologies, Projects, or Scientific Research
FOVE, Inc. collaborates with Khronos group, Microsoft and N-ix on project Xenko which is supported by Silicon Studio Corp. Xenko is an open source game engine. Its main idea is to create realistic games as much as possible (FOVE, Inc. has the same idea.). Furthermore, FOVE, Inc. collaborates with Unity Technologies, Epic games, Steam VR and OSVR. They uses popular game engine plugins such as Unity (from Unity Technologies), Unreal Engine (from Epic games) and Cryengine, however, they are still preparing drivers of Steam VR and OSVR.
Now, it is possible to try function of eye-tracking on project Judgment and Project Falcon. In January 2017, a collaborative project Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale was launched. Main character of SAO Asuna demonstrates the function of FOVE VR (especially eye-tracking) in practice. According to Anime News Network Asuna should respond to different levels of eye contact, e.g. if a user stares at her, she will feel embarrassed, or if a user do not look at her while she speaks, she will get angry.
Moreover, FOVE, Inc. collaborates with the University of Tsukuba on project Eye play the piano. This project is aimed at physically challenged and it was developed “the Universal piano” that can be played through the eye-tracking headset without using hands. The HUG project is another collaborative project aimed at health care. It has been created in cooperation with Creative Orca, FOVE, Inc. and Keio Media Design. To sum up, researchers are mainly running in Japan, they are aimed at benefits for people suffering from autism, Asperger syndrome and also people with limited motor control. Today, FOVE, Inc. also collaborates with London Company which is aimed at quadriplegics.
- LAMKIN, Paul. Fove eye-tracking VR headset redesigned ahead of launch. Wareable [online]. 2016, Jul 28. Available online at: http://www.wareable.com/vr/fove-eye-tracking-vr-headset-price-specs-release-date-1157 (Retrieved 12th December, 2016).
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