Oculus, the Facebook-owned company which shot to fame with the launch of its VR headset has now acquired an eye movement tracking startup The Eye Tribe. The startup’s claim to fame is a $99 tracking device that can bring gaze-based interfaces to smartphones.
The virtual reality segment has been seeing a major spike in the last few years. Oculus, which was once among the handful of players in the VR segment now faces competition from smartphone first OEMs like Samsung and HTC. With eye tracking now being deemed as the potential way forward for Virtual Reality headsets, the latest acquisition by Oculus couldn’t have come at a better time. The Eye Tribe’s budget eye tracking device is a rectangular shaped bar that can be connected to any device including tablet, laptops and smartphone to enable gaze based navigation.
The device basically tracks your eye movements and navigates through the screen depending upon your action. Just think of a situation where you are browsing a web page and you want to scroll down the page. In normal conditions, you need to grab hold of the mouse and scroll down, however, with The Eye Tribe’s device connected to your computer, a simple gaze at the bottom of the display would help you scroll. Well, that’s how simple it is!
With that said, The Eye Tribe’s recently developed foveated rendering technology that allows Virtual Reality based devices save computational power by generating graphics of only those parts you are looking at. It tries to imitate the way we look around and finally focus on a single object. This eye tracking ability will also help provide a near real life experience to users. The acquisition of The Eye Tribe may result in Oculus including their gazed based focusing technology for their upcoming wireless standalone headset dubbed Oculus Santa Cruz. Besides, it would enable the headset to render more complex scenes at higher frame rate despite its mobile form factor.
Although, Oculus has officially confirmed that a deal between the two firms has taken place, but it refused to divulge information regarding the monetary aspect of the same. The Eye Tribe recently raised around $3 million from investors including Startup Bootcamp, apart from taking a $2.3 million grant from The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. In recent times, the startup was even rumored to be acquired by Facebook. The Oculus acquisition comes at a time when the entire technology world is running after eye-tracking startups. Very recently, Google bought an eye-tracking firm in the form of Eyefluence. That said, with the Oculus deal in place it is still not clear what will be happening to The Eye Tribe’s current team or its existing users.