Virtual reality systems are doing a pretty good job of immersing users in their virtual worlds, with convincing sound and visuals that put users in the middle of the action. An area where today’s VR technology is less effective is interactivity, which is based on monitoring users and ascertaining their intentions.
One of the simplest but most important interactive concerns for a VR system is ascertaining what has caught the user’s attention. Where a user is looking is key, and if a VR system is going to be truly convincing, then being able to follow the user’s gaze is vital. That’s precisely why Oculus has purchased eye-tracking technology company The Eye Tribe, as Techcrunch reports.
The Eye Tribe is a startup that was founded in 2011 by some former Ph.D. students, who had moved on from the IT University of Copenhagen to utilize $3 million in seed funding and some government grants to explore eye-tracking technology. The result is a system that ties in with VR systems like Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Gear VR to greatly enhance those systems’ ability to determine where the user is looking. The company has already released a $199 version of its eye-tracking system.
By purchasing The Eye Tribe, Oculus will be able to integrate the technology directly into its headset. Not only does effective eye tracking improve the VR experience, but it also can reduce the processing requirements through “foveated rendering.” This is a method that allows a VR system to render only the most important bits — what the user is actually looking at — with the highest possible detail, leaving the rest of a scene at lower detail and thus reducing the overall load on the GPU.
The technology could prove particularly valuable to Oculus’ upcoming “Santa Cruz” wireless headset, by reducing the processing power required to render scenes. Oculus hasn’t yet released any information on the acquisition, including the price it paid for The Eye Tribe or when the deal might close. Regardless, it looks like Oculus should have some new toys to integrate into its VR systems to make them both more efficient and more immersive.