Tech startups across san francisco are currently working on the next big step for virtual reality – eye tracking that is facilitated by laser beams being aimed at users eyes in order to measure movements. These headset mounted lasers will then turn your eye balls into a mouse that you can use to control the device.
Companies like SMI, Percept, Eyematic, Fove, Eyefluence are all creating their own version of this technology in the hope that it will be used in the next generation of VR headsets.
Eye tracking differs from the current system of control used in AR and VR headsets, that instead require the user to gaze at a clickable object by turning their head towards it. Users then either have to click using a control or make a hand gesture – which is more typical method of control in augmented reality i.e. Microsoft’s Hololens.
As the above video demonstrates, any action can be completed simply by a combination of eye movements. The CEO of Eyefluence, Jim Marggraff, explains that “the idea here is that anything you do with your finger on a smartphone you can do with your eyes in VR or AR.”
Whilst this tech is very exciting, Eyefluence don’t see it being integrated into any consumer ready devices until at least 2017 despite being in talks with various of the top headset manufacturers. There are many complications that come with creating eye-tracking tech. On the technological side you have to create a system robust and adaptable enough to be able to deal with every single eyeball that is presented to it, whilst remaining light weight and requiring a low amount of power.
Despite the complications involved with making something like this possible, there is clearly a huge amount of scope for it in the future, with Eyefluence raising around 21.6 million dollars worth of funding in just two rounds (from Intel Capital and Motorola Solutions). Many industry insiders believe that eye-tracking technology has the potential to revolutionise VR and AR technology, liberating it from common mediums of control and propelling it into a more intuitive and natural hands free experience.
Eye-tracking tech also has extra potential outside of control of a device as it could also be the key to minimise the amount of computing power needed for a VR / AR headset. If a device is constantly tracking the eye then it can tell the GPU (graphics processing unit), that it only needs to render images that are to be displayed where the eye is currently fixated on at any given time.
We could be looking at the future of true hands free technology, a development that not only makes our personal computers more efficient but also more freely integrated into our lives without gluing ourselves to screens. We think the integration of eye-tracking into augmented reality devices could force a real paradigm shift in the way we use personal computers and inspire a change in the common type of device used.
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