Note: All demo’s ran on Linux using an nVidia GTX660 GPU.
Customised Tuscany Demo
The first was demo that Robin compiled from the Oculus SDK, customising assets as required to allow it to take advantage of InfinitEye’s unique FOV. Playing it again on a different HMD felt vaguely like I was being unfaithful, but once the demo began that feeling melted away.
I was dropped into the villa and was immediately hit by that killer FOV. There’s no doubting the immediate effect of those 210 degrees, your mind more readily accepts the scene as presented. Standing in the middle of the room, you can absorb your surroundings without moving your head. When you do move your head, the image moves with predictability, precision, and no real perceptible latency.
The team are using YEI’s 3-Space sensor to provide the 6DOF data required for head tracking, which we’ll be looking at in more detail in the next article—for now let me tell you that the responsiveness and lack of latency provides a refreshingly transparent experience. Is it as good as the proprietary sensor found in the Rift? Without more time with the unit it’s impossible for me to call, but during my time with the unit I didn’t give head-tracking a second thought, which speaks volumes.
“There’s no doubting the immediate effect of those 210 degrees, your mind more readily accepts the scene as presented.”
The device is comfortable to wear, despite the latest prototype implementing the head harness ripped straight from a safety visor. In its current form, the housing comprises primarily of expanded PVC. As a result, the device is actually extremely light. At no point during the demos did the weight of the device feel like an issue at all.
As I move closer to objects, my brain convinces me that the objects pass beyond my peripheral vision—giving the impression of a wraparound world. Looking toward the bright exterior beyond the villas front door, my first view of the InfinitEye’s artefacts came into view. Chromatic aberration was clear and present in the high contrast view where white meets the edges of the door frame. I ask the team if they have any software correction in place for this; thankfully they reply that it’s yet to be implemented at all, meaning this effect should be greatly reduced by the time the device reaches any users. I should point out that, although a distraction, it was hardly an eyesore.
As my eyes adjust to the bright exterior, I catch sight of the second noticeable artefact: should your eyes become focused on them, the circular ridges that make up the Fresnel lenses are visible in brighter areas of the image . This however was even more subtle than the chromatic aberration and dissolved completely on darker areas of the image. In the next article, we’ll look at what causes the artefacts and what can be done to fix them.
Passing through the door and into the courtyard, I was fully aware of each side of the door frame until it was well behind me; it gives you an interestingly accurate idea of your place in the virtual world and something I’d not considered as a gameplay advantage until trying it out for myself. Flying into the courtyard (the demo was in no-clip mode) around the side of the building and through a trees branches felt as if I was completely engulfed in the foliage—a feeling I recall experiencing on my first time with the Oculus Rift, but more acute in this case.
It was a good five minutes into my first playthrough before I realised I’d not even considered the much discussed ‘frame de-sync’ between each of the two panels. There’s a reason for that: as far as I can tell, it simply isn’t present. I’ve had some experience of software that failed to sync images for both eyes correctly—it’s impossible to ignore and becomes unpleasant very quickly. I mention this to the team and they express surprise at the community’s assumption that this would be an issue as they’d simply never experienced it, either on Linux or Windows. The methods they use to render the images sent to the unit may have something to do with this, but more on that later.
InfinitEye 3D Cinema
Despite the minuscule team, they’d somehow managed to scrape together enough time to prepare some excellent demos. The 3D Cinema Robin and Lionel had worked on, written specifically with the InfinitEye in mind, was an extremely welcome surprise. Dropping me into the rudimentary but effective auditorium, I was struck again at the InfinitEye’s impressively panoramic feel. The sense of place that the device conveys is at times bewitching.
As the movie rolled, in full Stereoscopic 3D on the large cinema screen in front of me, the device’s superior resolution became immediately evident. Having spent some time playing 3D movies in the Oculus Rift Development Kit, it was never long before I was frustrated by the resolution limitations. With the InfinitEye however, I could quite easily have kicked back and enjoyed the movie. As with the Rift, you have a dedicated image for both eyes and, in my opinion at least, this provides the best possible way to enjoy a stereoscopic image. No crosstalk or ghosting was present and image detail and effective 3D depth shone.
I was struck again at the InfinitEye’s impressively panoramic feel. The sense of place that the device conveys is at times bewitching.
It wasn’t perfect of course. The stacked Fresnel lenses seem to wash some colour and contrast from the image—an effect that was present for all demos. One factor that doesn’t help here is that, as the current prototype is entirely open towards the rear, reflections and light pollution can dilute the experience. It’s a trivial problem to solve of course (we joked about the possibilities of small Venetian blinds or curtains across both sides) and using my hands to block the gaps solidified that expansive view further.
Moving around the theatre, the field of vision impressed once again—being able to take in most of the auditorium’s seating and half of the screen in one glance illustrated the HMD’s killer attribute elegantly.
Custom Trench Run [Wearing Glasses]
The final demo was not quite what I expected. The team had prepared this Star Wars themed tech demo for a forthcoming competition. The fact that the video had appeared just one day before Boone had released his own version had lead some (including me) to assume they were one and the same.
I decided to wear glasses for this demo to find out how those who are short-sighted might fair with the InfinitEye HMD. As it turns out, the open design suits glasses wearers very well indeed. I was able to have the lenses touching my glasses with minimal loss of perceptible FOV and no real discomfort – at least for the short time I wore the device. Another plus.
This demo had been build from the ground up for the InfinitEye and very cleverly highlighted the devices strong points immediately. Dropped into the cockpit of an X-Wing, staring directly ahead I could still make out the tips of the fighters wings and laser cannons. In order to see R2D2, I only needed to turn my head 90 degrees and there he was, sat in my peripheral vision. As I mentioned before, enclosed spaces are rendered believably and the walls of the tunnel illustrate the power of high FOV Virtual Reality. Not only did moving along it give an extraordinary sense of speed, when I rolled the ship left and right the illusion of a world spinning about me was sold superbly. The effect was dizzying, in a good way and I found myself randomly spinning the ship just to try it out.
when I rolled the ship left and right the illusion of a world spinning about me was sold superbly. The effect was dizzying, in a good way
There’s one side effect of the large field of view, any shortcomings in the vertical FOV are in a way magnified. With this latest prototype there is a noticeable black halo effect apparent towards the very edges of your vertical peripheral vision. It’s there because, to put it simply, the lenses had to end somewhere and is undoubtedly an unwelcome distraction. However, after chatting with the team it’s fairly clear that a resolution to this issue is pretty straightforward – the construction needs to be expanded slightly in that direction.
The demo is rudimentary and Lionel (who’s built the demo’s assets) admits he’s no 3D modeller, but I was impressed what this micro team of developers had been able to achieve in such a short stretch of time. As it turns out, the slightly shonky visuals didn’t matter and as a demonstration of that immense FOV it was an inspired choice and one I was suitably impressed by.
Time To Leave, Closing Thoughts
I hope between the videos and my descriptions you’ve got a feel for why this new HMD is worthy of attention and why it’s quite rightly attracted so much attention from enthusiasts around the world. The promise demonstrated by this early device, which takes a very different approach to solving the problem of consumer virtual reality, is clear from the moment you put it on. The panoramic views offered up by the InfinitEye are compelling, unnerving and incredibly immersive. Furthermore the team, even at this early stage, have got the fundamentals right. Head tracking is fast and responsive with no perceptible latency and despite mine and others concerns, there is no problem with de-synced frames across the dual panel display.
Colour aberration is in clear evidence as are the aforementioned Fresnel specific artefacts. Furthermore, the devices completely open design needs amending to block light pollution and reflections from spoiling the view. All of these elements are either solvable or at the very least reducible – it’s early days yet for this HMD.
In my short time with Stephane, Lionel and Robin it became abundantly clear that this team has the smarts, the creativity and the drive to keep pushing their dream of High FOV VR forward. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious and, like most people I’ve met who share a love of Virtual Reality, they have complete faith in what they’re trying to achieve. Their excitement in finally being able to share their work with someone else was also palpable and their relief once I showed my positivity evident.
My thanks to Stephane, Lionel and Robin for being excellent hosts and for allowing me to experience the InfinitEye for myself. We wish them luck with the project. You can get in touch with the team over at their Facebook page here.
We’ll have a full in-depth technical exploration of the InfinitEye including answers to your questions very soon. Stay Tuned.