Fove VR, an upstart virtual reality company that just scored $11 million in venture funding, wants to make side eye part of your immersion into alternative digital realities. The first consumer headset with eye-tracking, Fove could potentially allow consumers to ditch the controllers necessary to navigate in Oculus Rift, Playstation VR, and HTC Vive and relieve users of the strain of constant neck swiveling. The tech will keep systems apprised of where people are looking as well as where people are facing. Those are two very different things. Just ask Cyclops about it.
X-ray vision, petrifying glances, and other eye beams have a long history in human fiction, but VR peripherals that give us such powers are pretty slim. Early reviews of the Oculus Rift are in — it’s cool but ultimately wanting at the moment — and the vibe is that the motion controllers will beef up the immersive experience. Fove sees another way: eyes instead of hands.
You can lop off your thumbs and still access VR by relying on head-tracking alone. Head-tracking-only features work for the Samsung Gear and other mobile headsets, but they are less than ideal for game play. The idea of having your head move one way and while your eyes exert control of lasers, guns, slappers only, or whatever else is — at an absolute minimum — novel.
In a video from last March, a reviewer for the YouTube channel Tested tried out the Fove headset, and though he was impressed with the eye-tracking tech alone it wasn’t quite superior to an mousepad. In combination with head-tracking and traditional controls, however, is where the subtle controls of eye motion could shine.
Fove feels less like the panacea the company has represented it as, and more like a very interesting solution in search of a problem. After all, controllers can be improved; they don’t need to be solved. Still, eye tracking will open up VR to those whose physical limitations could enrich social VR interactions. Not only will Fove users be able to navigate ocularly, they’ll be able to make eye contact. That would be something altogether new.