Tobii and Qualcomm bring eye tracking to VR/AR headsets

Qualcomm has announced that it plans to integrate Tobii’s eye-tracking technology directly into its Snapdragon 845 VR headsets. The two companies will create a full reference design and development kit for the Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform.

The development kit is based around the 845 processor, which was first used in the Samsung Galaxy S9 that launched in February. Qualcomm’s head mounted display will include Tobii’s proprietary EyeCore eye-tracking algorithms and hardware design.

The eye-tracking hardware follows where a user is looking and uses that information to enhance the experience. An example of this would be in games that involve targeting specific enemies, the system will be able to do this by tracking where the player is looking.

"Increased interest in the untethered, mobile VR segment, in conjunction with Qualcomm's innovation and technology leadership in this space, further strengthens our excitement about the potential of this market opportunity for Tobii eye tracking," said Oscar Werner, president of Tobii Tech.

"At its core, eye tracking fundamentally enables hardware manufacturers to build smarter and more capable devices with greater mobility, that in turn deliver truly immersive and natural experiences to delight users."

User gaze

Tobii’s eye tracking hardware can bring a number of benefits to mobile VR/AR headsets. Foveated rendering means that the device can direct high-definition graphics and processing power to the point where the user’s gaze is focused. This is likely to have significant effects on device battery life and efficiency.

Eye tracking can also be used to reduce the strain on user’s eyes and perhaps work against nausea, by automatically orienting images and objects in alignment with their pupils. Hand-eye coordination in a virtual environment is also likely to feel more intuitive with eye-tracking.

Outside the realm of gaming, one possible use case for the technology is to allow users in virtual social interactions to make eye contact. This would make communication feel much more real.   

"Qualcomm is focused on transforming the way that people use mobile technologies for entertainment and productivity," said Hiren Bhinde, director of Product Management, XR Technologies, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

"We added support for Tobii's eye tracking solution to our new Snapdragon 845 VR development kits to help developers create new experiences using a higher quality of gaze interaction that we think will ultimately provide consumers with more intuitive, visually immersive experiences."  

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