We have seen eye tracking in VR before. Fove has an entire HMD dedicated to showing off the technology, although with a 45 degree FOV it’s hardly a VR headset by modern standards. But bringing it into the DK2, thats a whole ‘nother ball game and SensoMotoric Instruments, one of the world leaders in eye tracking technology, has managed to do just that, and it could mean big things for helping create true presence.
SensoMotoric Instruments is one of the world leaders in eye tracking solutions. Earlier this year, they introduced a prototype of their Oculus Rift DK1 eye tracking integration at the Vision Science Society and Siggraph conferences. Their solution received quite a bit of fanfare at the conference, said Dr. Arnd Rose, SMI’s product manager, “the feedback we got was so positive… that we started the development for the DK2 right away.” And now it is available.
Having this kind of tracking integrated into the DK2 could be a huge boon for researchers, as well as industry professionals. However, it is unlikely that the solution is one that is accessible for the general public, yet. There’s an old saying that goes “if you have to ask, you probably can’t afford it” and that likely applies to SMI’s solution as well, which requires you to fill out a comment form and submit a request for more information to order the upgrade.
Lack of public availability aside, the solution itself is fantastic. The system “works calibrationless” which means that users can simply drop into the world and the system will automatically allow “gaze triggered interaction” and “fully immersive visual perception analysis.” The DK2 package comes with an SDK that makes all the pertinent gaze data, like eye position and eye to screen distance, available in real time, which could be extremely useful for researchers. SMI also made sure that the package had excellent development support, integrating a broad range of VR solutions like Unity.
Oculus has already shown a willingness to bring in solutions from outside their own walls with the recent acquisitions of Nimble VR and 13th Lab, so maybe they will do the same with eye tracking. It will be interesting to see if this kind of tech ends up making it into the final CV1. One can imagine that display improvements, combined with hand presence from Nimble and inside-out motion capturing made possible by 13th Lab’s tech and eye tracking technology like SMI’s would go a long way to creating the “presence” Oculus hopes to achieve for it’s customers. And I for one, have no doubts they will get there. Now if only we could get Disney’s eye capturing technology integrated with the DK2 for avatars….