Kickstarter-Backed FOVE Delays VR Headset Ship Date, Begins Offering Refunds

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FOVE, an eye-tracking VR headset company, announced today that due to unexpected difficulties in part-sourcing it will be delaying the expected ship date of its Kickstarter-backed HMD to fall 2016.

Likely to be more upsetting to many of the developer backers, the HMD is losing support for HTC’s Lighthouse system and instead will be building its own positional tracking system. The team at FOVE detailed that this decision was made to avoid further delays.

“This difficult decision was made solely such that we can get our eye tracking into your hands as soon as possible,” the company said in an update posted to its Kickstarter campaign. “Considering production speed and the ever-changing market situation, we believe it to be the right decision.”

The post details that due to losing Lighthouse support, the company will be offering full refunds to backers who request them within 30 days.

FOVE had originally targeted the first devices to land in backers’ hands in March, but with this delay it appears that developers will have to wait another several months before getting the device in their hands.

The company, which launched at Disrupt SF 2014, raised nearly $500 thousand in a Kickstarter campaign with backers pledging between $349 and $399 for the headset. The company has also received funding from Samsung Ventures, Microsoft Ventures London Accelerator and Rothenberg Ventures

There are still a lot of questions of whether second-tier HMDs like FOVE will even be able to survive first-gen launches, especially with big companies like HTC, Oculus and PlayStation all set to drop headsets into well-built and well-supported ecosystems this year.

FOVE may not hold its principle advantage of eye-tracking tech for long. Without referring to specific companies, Eye-tracking firms Eyefluence and Tobii have both told me that they’re currently working with headset manufacturers to implement their eye-tracking solutions. The technology is undoubtedly going to be a feature that finds its way into most future consumer VR headsets, but without widespread game developer support initially, it’s unclear whether early birds will actually receive much benefit.