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.

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