Virtual Reality is arguably the next big thing that’s heading for our lives later this year, and as the history has shown us the progression will only continue forwards in the future. We know what Oculus Rift and Samsung GearVR can do, but are they still the top dogs of the game?
It’s easy to get swallowed up by all the technical information sprouted by the current VR companies: high resolution this, low latency that – all kinds of things that just fly over the head of many as we’re only eager to see how well the system performs when it comes down to actual use, be that gaming or otherwise. But there seems to be one quite big thing still missing.
You see, while the whole looking around in the virtual reality world in completely, or at least nearly completely, in real time is cool and all it’s actually not that realistic when you really think about it. Go ahead and raise your head, see what happens. Now look around the space you’re in. Did you notice it? You might have not, but after I expose the secret here you think it’ll be obvious. The secret is eye movement. When you move your head, your eyes don’t stay fixed to one place or depth; they go around, focusing on things and moving on their own regardless of how your head is positioned. And this is exactly what many VR gadgets are missing.
The human eye is not fixed to an infinite focus, like a video game or an old camera phone is. Our focus changes according to what we’re look at, be that thing either near or far. When we look at our hand, the background goes blurry since our eyes are not able to focus there, and vice versa. Currently no VR headset offers this ability, and you only have one fixed way of looking around – it’s as if you were a camera! But a new competitor to the market has emerged, and they have fixed this problem.
FOVE – the eye-tracking VR headset
You start off with calibrating the system by focusing on a green dot on the screen. This is done to make sure that the eye tracking works correctly and provides the required result to stand out from the masses. The tech demo of FOVE might not look like much, but it’s the technology that counts. In the demo you’re tasked with shooting spaceships by targeting with your eyes. The depth-of field when looking around your own craft also changes depending on where you are looking at – just like it would in real life. The system is by no means instant at the moment, but the latency is barely noticeable so for a prototype version it’s very, very impressive!
While initially it might sound like a marketing gimmick to glorify something that’s no different than the competition, eye tracking is definitely a big thing in the VR field and it’s sure to stir up some conversation about the technology itself. Not having a fixed view is a game changer, for much better, so it will be interesting to see how the other companies will be responding to this. It’s clear than the tech will be coming to later versions of any and all VR headsets out there, but would a person really purchase Rift when they’d “need” to replace it in a year or two to get a better, much more realistic version for themselves? In this case that might just make sense, but what about the pricing?
Nothing is set in stone, but currently the FOVE floats around $399 price point, so it’s by no means cheap, but considering the official price of Rift is $350 the difference can easily be justified. After all we are talking about a big technological leap forward. One that will both make the usage of the headset way more realistic and at the same time lessen the performance requirements as less of the virtual world will need to be available in the same quality at the same time.
Or can it, really? We all have our individual needs for our devices and gadgets, so it’s impossible say how much some people would be willing to pay for an ability they might deem as useless. I’m sure that there will be no discussion regarding whether the eye-tracking is useful or not – because let’s face it, it is – but will it really justify the difference of $49 for your average gamer? If you don’t need to be using the top of the line device, saving that $49 off might go long way, and you’d still have a rad virtual reality headset at your disposal.
So the question is; would you be willing to spend a little more cash for eye-tracking technology? Or do you feel it’s simply not worth it, and cheaper device will do?