Most virtual reality games are played using handheld controllers. But one Taiwanese company is putting a big bet on VR games that are controlled by the user’s eye. The company has created a way to easily add eye-tracking capability to any VR headset or pair of smart glasses. Their invention is a little device that attaches right onto the frame. This eye-tracking module was recognized by this year’s CES Innovation Award. Formosa News reporter Stephany Yang spoke to Chien Shao-yi , the founder of the company, to learn why he thinks eye tracking is the next big thing.
Eying a burgeoning market, tech giants such as Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Apple and more have been racing to develop AR and VR technologies. However, most of the products still rely on handheld controllers.
Formosa News reporter
The future user interface for AR and VR may be our eyes.
While eye-tracking technology has not been widely adopted in AR and VR devices yet, a Taiwanese company sees the potential of eye tracking in AR and VR. Chien, an electronics engineering professor at National Taiwan University, believes that the four key applications for eye-tracking technology are market hotspot analysis, medical treatment, educational training, and mobility aids. Eye-tracking technology can allow patients diagnosed with stroke or cerebral palsy to communicate.
Some academic papers found that with an eye tracker, we can predict some disease with eye movement. Eye tracker is also a great tool for communication for some inhibited person. For example, one of the famous one is Dr. Hawking. He has an ALS disease so he basically cannot talk. He cannot control his hands. And finally he gave his speech and wrote his book with his eyes and his muscles.
Chien and his students have dedicated themselves to developing eye-tracking technology that enables users to control AR and VR devices with their eyes, allowing people to use their hands for other tasks. Based in Taipei, the company mainly comprises of electrical engineering graduate students of National Taiwan University. Many gave up opportunities with top tech companies to work here.
When we are in the university, we think that AR is an evolution for the future IT industry. My students put a lot of effort in different parts of AR. We finally found that eye tracking has a great potential because it’s not only for AR and VR, but also for many kinds of fields like medical, safety, education, and marketing, so on and so forth. Some people have this kind of idea. For example, for some truck or bus drivers. When he wears this kind of glasses, for example he wear sunglasses with eye tracking, we can know the condition of the driver. So for example, when he loses consciousness or when he feels tired, when he has too much workload, we can know those information from his gaze.
They spent five years building a module that can precisely track eye movements. It features ultra-low power consumption. And with a small form factor, the module can be attached to the frame of any smart glasses or AR and VR headset. The developers showcased their innovative solution at CES 2020 and were awarded the show’s Innovation Award.
I think the major difference between our solution and others is that we design the whole eye tracking from everything to the hardware. So we can design our chip for eye tracking, which make it very small. Our eye tracker actually has the lowest power consumption, the smallest form factor and the easiest one to integrate into any device in the market.
Working to enable new applications for AR and VR, the group hopes to focus on the field of assistive technology to help people with disabilities communicate.