In a fragmented VR market, one company wants to unite them all

In a fragmented VR market, one company wants to unite them all
From Engadget - July 17, 2017

One company, however, is planning on a headset that can run on not just one major VR platform, but three (Oculus, SteamVR and Daydream). What's more, it has positional tracking, an eight-hour battery life and while it can be used with SteamVR while tethered to the PC, it can also be standalone while on Android. It's made by GameFace Labs, and it promises to be the one headset to rule them all.

If the name GameFace Labs sounds familiar, you might remember it from when we covered it at CES 2014. We had given the Best of CES award to the Crystal Cove edition of the Oculus Rift, which was the best and most forward-looking piece of VR tech we saw at the time. Yet, we also took a look at what GameFace Labs had, which was a standalone VR headset that ran on Android. The prototype was pretty rough around the edges, but the proof-of-concept was there. It worked.

Three years later, and the VR landscape has changed. GameFace Labs' plans to put its headset in stores fell by the wayside. But instead of faltering, the company evolved. Now, it's focusing its efforts on making a headset that's compatible with as many systems as possible. The result: A surprisingly capable and powerful piece of hardware that could very well be the future of VR headsets.

We took a look at the current prototype -- which the company calls the EP1 -- and as you can imagine it's very different from the MarkIV we saw in 2014. It's still standalone and it still runs on Android, but now it's equipped with the latest NVIDIA Tegra SOCs, making it much more powerful than your regular smartphone. Hook it up to a PC, and you can run SteamVR content just like with the Vive.

Other specs include two 90Hz 2,560 x 1,440 display panels (custom made by Samsung) with a 120-degree field of view. There's also 3D-tracking technology thanks to Intel's RealSense cameras and Leap Motion's hand tracking sensors. It also has a unique technology that lets GameFace download content up to 100 times faster than traditional downloading methods, which Ed Mason, GameFace's CEO and Founder, says enables instant gratification VR content with zero latency.

"Everything is cloud delivered but locally rendered for a latency free VR cloud gaming experience," says Mason. It even has a built-in fan that promises to keep things nice and cool during operation.

GameFace partnered with Valve to support SteamVR. The EP1 is thus completely compatible with Valve's Lighthouse room-scale, sub-millimeter positional tracking. Indeed, if you take a look at the front faceplate, it has the same pockmark array of sensors of the Vive, and it's compatible with HTC's Lighthouse base stations and with the Vive wand.

This makes the GameFace headset the first ever standalone headset with Lighthouse positional tracking in an Android environment. That means that If a developer already has an app on Daydream, they can use Gameface's SDK to make it compatible with the more advanced tracking technology, allowing them to have Daydream apps that utilize the same kind of Lighthouse capabilities as more advanced Valve hardware. It promises to make Daydream games way more immersive.

The addition of positional tracking makes the GameFace compatible with controllers that have six degrees of freedom (this is when controllers are actually trackable objects in the space, which allows for greater immersion). Mason says that the final version of the headset will ship with a single Lighthouse base station, mostly for ease of setup, and also because it does not need more than just the one.


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