Skip to main content

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google Glass may not have been the smash hit that Google would have wanted, but that doesn’t mean that the company isn’t working on building better augmented and virtual reality technology. In fact, Google was just awarded a patent for a way to track facial expressions through eye-tracking cameras, something that could be significantly helpful in creating immersive VR experiences.

The patent is called “Classifying Facial Expressions Using Eye-Tracking Cameras,” and essentially has to do with using a machine learning algorithm, coupled with eye-tracking sensors, to infer the expressions that users have on their faces. The patent goes on to describe users being able to interact with each other in a virtual world through avatars, which would look like the user, and, with this tech, have their facial expressions, too.

As the patent notes, because of the fact that virtual reality headsets tend to obscure the user’s face, it can be difficult to tell what the user’s facial expression is when they’re wearing one. A machine learning algorithm, however, could be trained to learn expressions related to anger, happiness, surprise, and so on. It could also be trained to identify things like the brow lowering, lip raising, and more.

The tech certainly could make augmented and virtual reality more immersive. Virtual reality has started becoming increasingly common with headsets like the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and with platforms like Google Daydream. Virtual reality as a whole, however, is seen as still being in its infancy and is likely to go through a ton of development over the next decade or so. One of its biggest problems is that it’s still not quite as immersive as it could be, whether due to low-resolution graphics, slower performance, or that users still aren’t really visually represented in virtual reality experiences just yet. Google’s new tech could especially help the last issue by ensuring that users are visually represented in games and experiences in a way that’s accurate and detailed.

Of course, just because Google has filed a patent that doesn’t mean that it’ll put it to use. The likes of Google and Apple routinely file patents for tech they never use.

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
VR wearable can simulate temperature changes using odorless chemicals
simulating temperature with smells vr university of chicago

Trigeminal based Temperature Illusions

Virtual reality can transport us to other places, with all the sights and sounds we might need to convince us that we’re in a different environment. When it comes to other senses, however, there remains a whole lot of work to be done. One thing that VR still doesn’t do well is replicate temperature sensations; making the coronavirus lockdown dream of a virtual vacation, complete with the warming sensation of the shine on your face, still a fantasy. Perhaps until now, that is.

Read more
HTC offers cheaper Vive Pro Eye bundles, expands eye-tracking in VR
HTC Vive Pro Eye virtual reality headset

HTC is expanding its push into enterprise virtual reality solutions by launching several new bundles in the Vive Pro Eye family. Both new bundles come packaged with HTC's Vive Pro Eye, which boasts to be the first virtual reality headset that comes with built-in eye tracking technology.

However, enterprise users who just want the VR headset without buying a bundle can grab the Vive Pro Eye at its new lower price of $1,399, HTC announced. This represents a savings of $200 from the original $1,599 price.

Read more
PlayStation VR on the PS5 could ditch Move controllers for finger-tracking
playstation vr 2017 review front angle

Sony got good mileage out of its PlayStation Move motion controllers, which it introduced for the PS3 generation. But it could be moving to something more akin to the Valve Index controller for the upcoming PlayStation 5. A patent application published this month suggests finger-tracking technology could come to the system, possibly for use with PlayStation VR.

The application, which was first filed in 2018, is for a hand-worn device that includes sensors to detect individual fingers. A "sensor support" unit is located in the middle and is adjustable to accommodate different hand sizes.

Read more