Exclusive: World’s First Hands-On With the InfinitEye 210° FOV HMD [video]

stephane-robin-lionel-infiniteye

Stephane Portes, Robin Bourianes and Lionel Anton

InfinitEye is a prototype head mounted display that uses dual 1280×800 displays to create a massive 210 degree field of view. I traveled to Toulouse, France to be the first journalist in the world to go hands-on with the unit. These are my thoughts on the trip, the team, and the HMD itself.

An Englishman in Toulouse

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Take Me To the Videos

It’s been a little over 12 months since I began writing publicly about virtual reality and if you’d told me then that I’d be flying around Europe, getting to meet the leading lights in this fledgling industry and to witness the birth of so many incredible firsts along the way, I doubt I’d have believed you. Nevertheless, here I was winging my way to the historic city of Toulouse to met the talented trio behind what some believe is the first real competitor to the now mighty Oculus Rift.

If that all sounds a little too romantic, it is. In reality I was on a redeye, struggling to stay awake following a 6 hour drive and the world’s worst sleep ever. In a fit of unusual optimism (I’m British after all) I’d arranged to do the trip in one day, an itinerary I’ll not be trying to replicate any time in the near future.

Greeting me at the Airport was Project Manager Stephane Portes and Developer Lionel Anton, and upon seeing my zombie-esque condition, frankly they must have wondered what they’d agreed to. Nevertheless, a few minutes later we were chatting opposite the grandiose Capitole de Toulouse, sipping fresh orange juice. Joining us there was the third and (so far) final member of the team, Developer and ”3D Expert” Robin Bourianes. All three members have been friends for over a decade and this is not the first time they’ve collaborated on a project.

The InfinitEye was Lionel’s idea, a product of many hours of tinkering in his spare time. Stephane exclaims “I’ve been trying to push him [Lionel] for years”, highlighting his own personal belief that his friend was onto something rather special. By that of course he meant, refining the design, developing an SDK, seeking funding, and perhaps even investigate the possibilities of a commercial product based on the idea.

This brings us to juncture where most people first heard of the InfinitEye, at least those not frequenting specialist forums such as MTBS3D. The team entered a Samsung Entrepreneurial Funding Contest which promised €100,000 to the winner. Despite being publicly voted into the top five finalists, Samsung decided to not pick any of the finalists. As you can imagine, it knocked the wind out of their sails a little. But the campaign they ran in order to get the votes brought their project to the attention of many more people. The genie was out of the bottle.

“Natural and Panoramic Virtual Reality…”

…is the best phrase I can come up with that summarises the InfinitEye’s capabilities. If using the Oculus Rift is like opening the sunroof on a virtual world, the InfinitEye takes the roof clean off—at least if you base your opinion solely on horizontal FOV. But the new HMD also offers 1280×800 per eye in comparison the current Oculus Rift Dev Kit’s 640×800 (and only slightly fewer pixels per eye than the Oculus Rift HD prototype), the benefits of which should be obvious. What’s been more controversial is the use of Fresnel lenses to achieve the astronomical FOV. Rejected by some as problematic, the debate on whether they offer a viable alternative to Oculus Rift style aspheric lenses is complex, and we’ll be covering this in a forthcoming technical exploration including answers to your questions.

For now though, we present three videos filmed during my day with the InfinitEye team, each video is my realtime impressions whilst experiencing the application in question. The applications show a good range of the HMD’s abilities and I hope my slightly dazed ramblings give you some idea of what to expect should this device ever become a reality.

Continued: Video Impressions

Comments

  1. Avatar of Paulo Cunha says

    This review was AWESOME!!! It got everything I was hoping for… and was a relief for many of my worries.
    I gotta to say… I have my Rift here at my desk, but I’m really disappointed by that binocular vision. Ok, everything else is great, latency, corrected chromatic aberrations (minding the low resolution, wich will improve, of course)… but VR without having an FoV of at least 180º is NOT VR. It’s just using binoculars to view a 3D monitor. Sorry Luckey, but it’s true.

    To be immersed in a world you GOTTA mimic as perfectly as possible our vision range, and although I know Fresnel produce the rounded artifacts (as FatherGeek already demonstraded in the forums with stacked lenses tests) it STILL is a better and more realistic way to experience the VR world.

    I was impressed with the very low latency… demonstrating perhaps that the genius of the RIFT was 50% 50% due to the advancements of gyros, accelerometers and magnetometers in the mobile industry. Latency soon won’t be a problem at all.

    The dual screens with NO DE-SYNC is absolutely fantastic…. I SINCERELY dind’t expect that. I expected the annoying one eye glitches of course. Kudos to you, guys!!!! (And perhaps with the advent of OLED curved displays , the use of dual screens is gonna remain in the past).

    Regarding lateral light leak, it should be a minor detail…just a matter os designing protective covers, as with the Rift.

    Anyway. AWESOME in every aspect…… Didn’t expect that, keep up the good work, and…

    LET THE COMPETITION BEGIN! :D

    Cheers!!
    Paulo Cunha

    • Avatar of Okin says

      Competition is good. But this wont be able to compete for a while yet. 2 screens means either double the price of the Rift, or 2 much lower quality screens, if they want to match price. Some people will want to spend the extra money for the better FOV, but most probably wont.

      The Rift’s current FOV is a limitation of the current screen technology (we probably need curved and even wider screens), as well as the price point they’re trying to hit.

      And if you’re disappointed in the Rift’s FOV, wait a generator or 2. From the way Oculus has discussed their priorities, regarding FOV, it seems like the second generation consumer model (Rift 2?) will be when they put more focus on widening the FOV. Oculus needs to convince screen manufacturers that the Rift will be a hot-seller, before they’ll make screens specifically better for VR. But if/when they DO, the Rift may very well have a comparable FOV to this InfinitEye headset, and would still be able to meet the cheaper price point (if they stick with 2 screens, and oculus sticks with 1).

      And I have an Oculus Rift too, I’m never really bothered by the FOV, or any “binocular vision”. As long as things are configured right for your personal settings, and the game you’re playing makes good use of the peripheral space on the screen (without blacking it out), then the FOV is barely a problem at all.

      I can’t wait for a wider FOV headset, but then again I can. I’ll wait and see what Second-Gen VR headsets start looking like, and stick with Oculus this first time around, because of price point, and their so-far proven software/hardware relations.

      • Avatar of Paulo Cunha says

        Hi There Okin!

        You were talking about the price. But keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need dual screens to have a + 180º FoV. FatherGeek in the MTBS3D forum demonstrated that with stacked lenses you could have almost the exact configuration of the Oculus (with perhaps a little wider screen) but due to the fact that the Fresnel is wrapped around you face, it gives you this incredible 180 plus experience. Of course, with dual screens we get a much better result. But anyway, I think the OLED curved ones will be the choice. And as we don’t even KNOW the retail price for the consumer version of the RIft, nor exactly WHEN it will be relesead I’m pretty sure we can think of competition just right now.

        For my dismay, as until today, I haven’t read any single line regarding a Rift with a higher FoV, because, frankly that’s my only concern so I read everything about it. All we got are those secret statements “Yes, we are working on many things at once”… But they keep talking about resolution, resolution, better tracking, latency, etc. Not FoV. I don’t know if in their minds they think that’s ok… because DEFINITELY IT’S NOT. I’m hoping to be VERY VERY wrong about this and with the arrival of DevKit v2, or finally with the consumer version, we get a surprise 180plus FoV. (The Rift team wouldn’t be so naive…and I know they were in touch with FatherGeek experiences with stacked fresnel lenses for a long time now).

        About being bothered by all this Fov problem, you might be one of the lucky ones that have your interpupillary distance exactly matching the Rift lenses, so you have little black borders and less binocular vision than me or other people, but even in that case this is not how we perceive the world, unless a person has a serious field of view disorder. Evolutionary speaking, we gotta se things in our peripheral vision, so you can run, otherwise we’re dead. Now try that with Oculus Rift. Impossible. For TRUE VR, we must have the wraparound effect. NO black borders whatsoever.

        The OLED curved screens are already becoming THE great fight among the mobile industry leaders, and it was already said that their cost could be even smaller to produce than that of some LCD we have today. So I think price is not a problem in the near future when all that competition hit the market (and the HMDs).

        Anyway, I think these guys here are on the right track, putting huge effort in the FoV experience, cause they know that’s the trick for (ok, damn this word haha) IMMERSION. I Can’t wait to see what’s coming!!

        • Avatar of Psuedonymous says

          I’m not holding out any hope for suitable OLED panels yet. the curved panels are all relatively low resolutions compared to some of the recently demonstrated TFTs, and even the regular flat OLEDs used in the Galaxy & Note series are RGBG (two subpixels per addressable pixel) pentile panels rather than proper tristimulus panels, so do not have the same usable resolution as an equivalent TFT. This is usually explained as a tradeoff due to light output issues with the different organic phosphor colours.

          • Avatar of Paulo Cunha says

            Yes, but here are a few words: Savage Capitalist Competition + Design Appeal.
            2 – 4 years from now, all of those problems are gonna be in the past.
            I bet some beers :D

  2. Avatar of eyeandeye says

    I’m so glad you got to try this system out and give us your impression, Paul. And I’m glad you came away with a positive experience. I first heard about InfinitEye on mtbs3d and I’ve been super excited to see what becomes of it. I sincerely hope I get to wear one someday, and if not, I hope they at least manage to spur Oculus into improving their FOV sooner.

    The Rift is awesome but I haven’t read any mention of them trying to improve the FOV for the consumer model, nor have I seen how their current design could ever have it’s FOV improved to the level of InfinitEye. Seems to me the lenses would have to somehow be made concave and then completely mashed against your eyeballs. Otherwise no matter how big or curved they made the screen, we’d still see the massive black borders around the edges of our vision where the lenses don’t reach.

    Strangely, many people I’ve shown the Rift to don’t seem to notice the black void or lack of peripheral vision, but to me it is quite obvious. I wear the default lenses, and my eyes are close enough to brush them slightly with my lashes. Don’t get me wrong, the experience is still amazing, indescribable, and revolutionary…but not all that I dreamed it would be or could be.

    Assuming the issues you describe with the InfinitEye can be resolved, the only other issue I see is that the device will unavoidably be larger than the Rift, at least at first. But from what I can tell from your hands-on I’d gladly trade some additional bulkiness for better immersion (damn, I almost made it without using that word).

    Bring on the Hi-FOVHMDs!

    Sheesh. I used to think “HD-DVD” was a mouthful.

    • Avatar of Paulo Cunha says

      I have the same feeling as you do. Although the Rift is a great experience, the small FoV simply ruins it for me… it’s like whatching everything with binoculars… making it claustrophobic even, With all the hype, I expected the feeling to be really really better…. but…. let’s see now, as you said… if they at least can push the Rift team to see that FoV MATTERS, it could already be a great thing.

  3. Avatar of Mageoftheyear says

    Good to get some meat & potatoes info on this. I too was surprised that there were no frame-syncing errors in the demos you tried Paul. That is encouraging news. Kudos to RtVR for the exclusive interview!

    I’d need to actually try both to see where the overall better experience is, but the competition is a welcome factor and I’m holding thumbs for InfinitEye eventual release.

  4. Avatar of xxxyyy says

    I think it’s incredible to see competition at this early stage in this new wave of VR headsets.
    Luckey is a great guy and I suspect noble of heart too, but even him can turn into the Evil Dark Lord without competition, he could just rule us all and bind us in a low FOV claustrophobic doungeon…

    So, great to see this extremely positive review of this promising HMD.

  5. Avatar of Webb Travellor says

    Greetings… I first started fooling around with VR equipment in 1993, and later owned a VR gaming company. I’ve tried alot of VR headsets and other equipment over the years… back in 1998 I owned Liquid Image HMD’s as well as Sony Glasstron’s and VFX stuff. I had a single 800×600 LCD panel in the Liquid Image HMD, with a Fresnel lense. I loved that HMD, even though it was big, bulky, and indeed had all the “cons” of using a Fresnel lens. But I think using the single LCD panel actually worked pretty well to create a better “immersive” experience than the dual screen HMD’s that were out at the time. Is true stereoscopic 3D really necessary for the best experience? I think that would be interesting for a “blind” test, i.e. have various HMD’s with and without stereo displays, and allow a statistically representative set of people to try the HMD’s and say which one they like best, without mentioning the stereo-vs-mono aspect. I wonder what a large set of “lay public” would say? Imagine if more people preferred a mono display, and then a whole new world opened up with use of REALLY high-rez single screens? And yeah, a curved screen(s) is probably the future of these things, as curved screens for simulators and high-end “prosumer” gaming exist with projections and are REALLY good!

  6. Avatar of Runewell says

    This is great! As someone who owns two Oculus Rift Dev Kits I really love the idea of more options in the market. The size of the screen and mention of the YEI sensors indicate to me that this hardware will probably be more expensive than the Oculus Rift. I hope they stick with high-quality hardware as I think a “premium” consumer VR product would be a great idea. I would easily pay 600-800 USD for a higher-resolution, bigger FOV device.

    I wish I had the time to work on a generic SDK for VR hardware. Although not in Oculus Rift’s best economic interest, I think the community should standardize the game engine integration. I would rather all VR gear be swappable without the need to worry about which game is compatible with which headset.

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