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Google takes on eye-tracking virtual reality technology with Eyefluence purchase

Google purchased virtual reality eye-tracking software developer Eyefluence, reigniting rumors suggesting the company is developing an unannounced wireless VR headset.

Google’s rumored wireless VR headset will not require a connected PC or smartphone in order to function and the platform is reportedly separate and distinct from Google’s Daydream View virtual reality headgear, which launches in November.

Related: Hands On: Google Daydream View

News of the Eyefluence buyout arrived shortly after Engadget published a report indicating Google’s rumored wireless VR gear “will integrate eye tracking and use sensors and algorithms to map out the real-world space in front of a user.” Further evidence that such a headset is close to reality can be found in FCC application for a new prototype device with wireless capability from Google. There isn’t much detail in the filing, but it does appear to be VR-related. Mike Jazayeri is listed as a contact and he currently is part of the leadership of Google’s VR team.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” Engadget reports Google’s in-development headset will focus on augmented reality within a user’s field of vision, eliminating the need for a tethered PC or mobile device. Google declined to comment — the FCC application also asks for “confidential treatment” of its FCC filings, a move meant to prevent unintentional disclosure of a company’s work through publicly available filings.

Founded in 2013, Eyefluence offers eye-tracking software that can be integrated with head-mounted VR and AR displays. The company notes its technology is powered by “over a decade of eye studies, algorithm development, optics and illumination system design, and field applications.”

Given Eyefluence’s capabilities, Google’s rumored VR device could feature augmented reality technology similar to Microsoft’s HoloLens peripheral. Google previously contributed to an initial venture funding round for Magic Leap, developer of a head-mounted VR display that projects 3D imagery on top of real-world objects and settings.

“Over the last three and a half years we have built an incredible team, advanced our eye-interaction technology, and created strong partnerships that have lead to the development of a completely new language for eye-interaction,” Eyefluence said in a statement following this week’s Google acquisition.

“We are excited to announce that the Eyefluence team is joining Google! With our forces combined, we will continue to advance eye-interaction technology to expand human potential and empathy on an even larger scale. We look forward to the life-changing innovations we’ll create together!”

Ed Oswald contributed to this report.