If the word “Fove” looks like a mispelled “five,” we’re right there with you. Launched as a Kickstarter on May 19th, 2015, Fove is a new VR headset that crushed its initial funding goal of a quarter million dollars in three days. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Despite the massive moves being made with Sony’s pet and Oculus Rift’s purchase by Facebook, another contender in the arena managed to earn its stripes – and continues to do so. At the time of writing, this project has soared to almost $418,000.
This tells us several things about the VR market. First, there is no leader. Oculus Rift might have gotten a head start, but it’s important to remember that there is no commercially viable option for the average gamer. These headsets are still peripherals. They are not platforms in their own right. They cannot run games, not all games support them, and yet they are still priced at the level of a brand-new PS4.
Second, as is the case with the console market, there is no clear “winner.” This is due in part to the previously mentioned point, but most only know about the Oculus Rift because it was the only VR headset that made a big enough wave. Games for the device are still a niché relegated to Kickstarter. The market is still wide open for the next big thing. By all reports, Fove aims to be that thing.
But what does Fove offer? Apart from looking fleek as hell, isn’t the Fove ultimately just another VR headset?
To be fair, if the Fove can accomplish these things, it will definitely be a feat of design and function. One of the key features of virtual reality – if not the most important – is natural immersion. Until we can intercept brain signals and redirect them to a full environment, making VR as “real” as possible while still moving our real-life body parts is the next best thing. Fove could create that with its eye-tracking technology.
Giving developers this feature allows them to create environments and experiences that react to the player’s behaviors directly. It’s one thing to start a conversation by pressing A; it’s an entirely different universe to, in a game, look at a character in the eye and have them come over and say something. And this would be a huge development in VR gaming, but there are still concerns.
However advanced the Fove might be, it still represents the present of VR. This is a headset. It has no plans to go beyond being a headset. Fundamentally, we’re not advancing VR as drastically as it sounds. Full immersion is still a long ways off. That fact can never be forgotten, but it shouldn’t detract from the importance of the Fove.