SMI Releases Eye Tracking Developer Kit For The HTC Vive

by Joe Durbin • July 22nd, 2016

The company known as SMI is now making kits available that will put its potent new technology in the hands of developers working with the HTC Vive.

SMI is known for its eye-tracking hardware. Eye-tracking is of particular interest to the virtual reality community because of the considerable experience and peformance benefits it is able to provide.

A gear VR fitted with SMI tracking technology.

A gear VR fitted with SMI tracking technology.

For example, a VR headset with eye-tracking enabled could utilize a process known as Foveated Rendering. This method tracks exactly where your eye is looking and then renders the most detail in the middle, where you are focused the most. The rest of the visuals are a bit blurrier in order to maximize processing power where it really matters. This is the same way your actual eyes work and it could allow for higher fidelity VR experiences without the use of exceedingly more powerful graphics cards or personal computers.

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Eye tracking can also be used to create truly revolutionary VR experiences. For example, with this tech developers could build a virtual world populated with NPCs that actually make eye contact with the player or react to your gaze. This would be particularly potent for Social VR given the huge importance eye contact and motion plays in human interaction.

It’s an exciting time for fans of virtual reality. We now live in a world where there are not one, but two high end VR headsets available for purchase alongside a slew of middle and lower tier options as well. With all the hullabaloo over this first wave of releases it can be easy to lose sight of what makes this industry truly exciting: This is only the beginning.

Rift VS. Vive1

It’s already become clear that Oculus (owned by Facebook) is staffing up with employees to work on the unannounced Rift 2, and HTC recently created a standalone sub-corporation for its Vive headset – which would be a weird move if there aren’t plans to expand upon its platform.

One such feature that would make abundant sense to include in next generation headsets would be eye tracking.

Now that SMI is releasing these dev kits, studios can get started on building the next generation of VR experiences around eye tracking and room-scale VR. Time will tell if eye-tracking will indeed be a confirmed feature in the inevitable second generation of headsets, but it seems that developers and companies like SMI are willing to bet on the possibility.

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  • Badelhas

    I would be very upset if htc vive launched a better resolution and with eye tracking just months after launching the first generation

    • Gerald Terveen

      There is little risk of that – they might release a version with similar specs but more evolved ergonomics and maybe integrated headphones. But I actually expect that the rumors around an updated Vive are more likely based on a mobile headset that utilizes a smartphone but makes use of the Lighthouse peripherals.

    • Adrian Meredith

      I would be very happy, its what i’m waiting for!

  • Michael Wentworth-Bell

    This is fantastic, didn’t realise eye tracking was so close to being a reality.

    Eye tracking will be absolutely crucial in opening up VR to people who who are physically disabled, just as one example of its use.

    • Conrad Brown

      The Hololens uses eye tracking. I’ve been waiting for someone to to do this

  • RodioR

    Anyone knows how expensive is Vive & / or GearVR SMI eyetracker solution? They describe the whole concept and use cases pretty well on the website, but do not state price anywhere. Is it again $15k? *chuckles intensely*