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New VR headset from HTC exploits the human eye to increase resolution

Foveated rendering technology will make what you’re looking at more detailed

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HTC via Twitter

HTC has announced a new, next-generation virtual reality head-mounted display at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Called the HTC Pro Eye, it uses the physiology of the human eye to its advantage, adding more detail to scenes right where you’re looking.

If you’ve spent any time in consumer-grade virtual reality, you know that even though resolutions are at an all-time high, images can still look a little fuzzy. It’s not just because of the so-called “screen door” effect, which is caused by the display itself being so close to your eye that you can see between the pixels. Instead, it’s because the resolution of scenes must be dialed down to continuously push enough frames to your eye.

Keeping frame rates high is the number one way to make VR more comfortable, and reduce the incidence of motion sickness. So, just about everyone making experiences for VR prioritizes a smooth, steady scene over higher resolutions.

What the new Pro Eye headset does is add eye tracking technology, which opens the door to something called “foveated rendering.” The new headset literally tracks where users’ fovea — the sensitive bit in the middle of the inside of your eyeball — is pointing. Outside that field of view, humans can’t perceive as much detail. So the Pro Eye allows developers to crank up the resolution in the center of your field of view, and turn down the resolution in other parts of the scene.

The result should be a more detailed image than ever before, with the same nausea-relieving high frame rate.

Unfortunately, the HTC Pro Eye is targeted at the enterprise market. It will likely be a bit more expensive even than the HTC Pro that it’s based on, which will currently run you $1,399 on Amazon. A demo unit is reportedly going to be available for the press to try out this week. No price point or release window has been revealed.

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