Oculus has acquired an eye-tracking startup known as The Eye Tribe, a company spokesman confirmed to UploadVR this morning.
According to The Eye Tribe’s website, its technology, allows “eye control for consumer devices that enables simplified and enhanced user experiences. The Eye Tribe intends to become the leading provider of eye control technology by licensing to vendors in the consumer technology industry.”
The latter half of that mission statement is likely rendered moot now that The Eye Tribe has been acquired by Oculus. The former piece, however, holds a major clue as to why the Facebook-owned VR company made this purchase.
There is something of an arms race developing between the major VR hardware companies (Facebook, Google, HTC, Sony) to add more intuitive controls for VR. The solution seems to lie in one place: our eyes.
Recently, Google acquired a company called Eyefluence. This later stage startup debuted its eye-based user interface just months before being swallowed up by the Silicon Valley juggernaut. Eyefluence uses a proprietary system of eye-gestures to do everything they could with their hands and a smartphone with just their eyes and a head mounted display.
Eye controls are the future for immersive tech, but there are other use cases for eye tracking too. Companies like FOVE are having big breakthroughs using eye tracking to enhance social interaction in VR and foveated rendering techniques could make VR/AR more processor efficient than ever.
However, The Eye Tribe’s stated commitment to building “eye control for consumer devices that enables simplified and enhanced user experiences,” makes it likely that Oculus plucked this young company up to compete with Google directly in the spring for eye-based control schemes.
Before the Oculus acquisition, The Eye Tribe had managed to raise around $5.3 million through various investors as well as $2.3 million grant from the Danish National Advanced Technology association, according to Crunchbase. The specifics of the buyout, including the amount Oculus actually paid for The Eye Tribe, remain undisclosed.