HTC Announces New Affordable Eye Tracking Module
HTC’s headsets Vive Cosmos, Vive Focus, Vive Focus Plus and Vive will now have a new affordable eye tracking addon made by the Chinese startup 7invensun. The module has been designed to support all of HTC’s virtual reality headsets, including past ones.
— Alvin Wang Graylin (@AGraylin) September 25, 2019
The addon is known as Droolon F1 and costs just $149. According to the Chinese startup, it will only take a few minutes to install and doesn’t add much weight to the headset. There is only a 10% (60 grams) increase in the headset weight with the addition of the module. The addon has two sampling rate options of 120Hz and 240Hz. The Droolon F1 eye tracking module has been designed primarily to target HTC’s upcoming Vive Cosmos headset which hits the market in October and is priced at just $700.
Droolon F1 can be connected to the virtual reality headset via USB and it can even provide dual-eye sync data through the USB port. The 120Hz sampling rate is for the standard version although this is customizable to run on at 240Hz.
This is not the first Vive eye tracking addon from the Chinese startup. In April 2017, the company launched the $220 “aGlass” eye tracking interface for the original HTC Vive headset. It was actually supposed to launch in the Q3 of 2017 although there is no information of the launch ever occurring. 7invensun is already a part of HTC Vive’s X accelerator initiative and is HTC’s official product partner.
The Droolon F1 module also makes use of HTC’s SRanipal SDK. As a result, content that’s been developed for the Vive Pro Eye enterprise virtual reality headset should work without any additional updates. This is a major improvement over 7invensun’s original addon which relied on its own SDK.
Eye-tracking serves several functions in virtual reality. Eye-tracking allows for the detection of the user’s interpupillary distance which allows for an optimal optical calibration. In social VR, eye tracking capabilities can be used in communicating real eye movements as well as eye contact. Advertisers can also use it in collecting data on what on the areas that the user’s eyes are focusing on.
Perhaps the most important advantage of eye-tracking functionality is that it allows for foveated rendering. The way the human eye works, it is only high-resolution at the very center. Virtual reality headsets can leverage this foveated rendering to render high resolution content in the areas where the user’s eyes is directly looking at while rendering everything else in a much lower resolution. 7invensun hasn’t divulged any detail yet on whether Droolon F1’s tracking quality will be enough to provide foveated rendering.
Users can begin pre-ordering the module in November. HTC has stated that it will begin shipping in December. As at now, HTC hasn’t the stated the countries where the addon will ship to. However, HTC announced the $150 price during the enterprise-focused event in Shanghai which could be pointer to the fact that the module might be available outside China.