When you watch a video in virtual reality, something feels a little bit off. While it’s meant to feel as lifelike as possible, the headset isn’t able to quite perfectly replicate how our eyes look at the real world.
One reason is focus. If you look at something close to you, the horizon blurs. In virtual reality, everything remains clear and sharp. The picture still looks good, but it feels just the slightest bit wrong.
Fove, one of the first startups to go through the Rothenberg Ventures River virtual reality accelerator, has a solution. Its custom headset and software track exactly where your eyes are looking and take action based on that. Right now that means gaming actions such as shooting a gun at a target, but eventually it could be used to set focus in film scenes and make VR a more natural experience.
Making Eye Contact
CEO Yuka Kojima became interested in eye tracking while working at Sony (she was unaffiliated with the Project Morpheus VR headset). She craved more interaction with virtual characters, with whom eye tracking could create eye contact and natural emotional responses. Sony eventually cut her research budget and she moved on to found Fove with CTO Lochlainn Wilson.
At River’s demo space at SXSW, I used the amusingly big Fove headset to shoot down enemy ships in a futuristic city—essentially a high-tech version of Galaga. I simply looked at a ship and laser beams erupted from my eyes. The aim was extremely accurate.
Shooter games probably aren’t the best application for eye tracking technology. It limits strategy and the number of actions you can take, as you can’t look around and continue to fire at your target. But Kojima is absolutely right about interactivity. Imagine prompting a dialogue with a character by simply looking at them.
Last year, Fove debuted a video of a boy who lacked use of his hands playing the piano. Inside a Fove headset, he could simply look at boxes corresponding to the keys to play. The startup is also working with paralyzed medical patients to help them communicate or even move a humanoid avatar.
Virtual reality appeals to us because it mimics the human experience. Anything that can be done to make that feeling even stronger—or restore it—is a worthwhile pursuit.
Photo by Signe Brewster for ReadWrite
This article was written by Signe Brewster from ReadWrite and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.