Tobii isn't playing around anymore
One of the next big things for VR is going to be eye tracking, and any company that wants to stay relevant in virtual reality will need to find a way to implement it. Swedish company Tobii has been refining its own eye-tracking tech for years, and now it's finally getting out in the wild, partnering with Qualcomm for its new Snapdragon 845 reference VR headset.
Qualcomm's Snapdragon reference headsets are important markers in mobile standalone VR as companies use them to built out their own headsets - like HTC using the previous generation 835 as the basis for the Vive Focus.
We've seen how good Tobii's eye tracking is, so the fact it'll provide its EyeCore tech on the headset gives us hope that we'll see VR companies start offering this technology. We actually tried the Qualcomm 845 headset last month with eye tracking, but at the time it was unclear who would be providing the tech. Now we know.
Tobii's eye-tracking will bring a couple big features to mobile VR and AR headsets. First, it's got foveated rendering, which means the headset directs high resolution graphics to the spot you're looking at in real time, reducing performance needs and improving battery life.
Interpupillary distance is a fancy way of saying that it adjusts images to align with your eyes, which let devices adapt to individual users and make sure the visuals are as good as possible.
The most exciting change, however, is interactive eye contact. This means that developers will know where you're looking and can make the content adjust to you. For instance, imagine playing a game and a character in the game changes their behavior based on whether you're looking at them or not. Mobile VR is still the way most people experience virtual reality, thanks to its low barrier to entry and the flood of 360 videos and free VR apps one can experience for mobile headsets.
Other companies, like HTC and partner 7invensun, have also been working on eye tracking, but the tech isn't as good. For instance, 7invensun's aGlass eye tracking doesn't customize to each user, you need to insert a new lens.
Of course, we'll have to wait until technology companies actually start using the upcoming 845 to build their devices, and that could take a couple years. As previously mentioned, the 835 is the basis of the Vive Focus, a 2018 headset.