Eye-tracking to Enhance AR/VR and Automotive User Experience

Back in 2013, if you were holding a Samsung Galaxy S4, you might be experiencing one of the fanciest high-tech eye-sensitive features on smartphone at that time which called eye-tracking. The technology utilizes the front-facing camera to follow a user’s eye movements. For example, the “Smart Pause” feature pauses a video if you look away, and resumes it when you look back. The S4 is also equipped with “Smart Stay,” which keeps the phone’s display from dimming or going to sleep as long as you are looking at it. It isn’t a new technology but the past year saw a rising interest in it.

iris eye tracking

Eye-tracking is about where we look, what we look at, how much time we spend looking at it, how our pupils react to different kinds of visual stimulation and when we blink. In other words, eye-tracking refers to the measurement of eye activity. This technology itself has been used for decades but mostly for research purposes only. For instance, retail research scientists use consumer eye-tracking to find out which store shelves customers’ eyes naturally go to. Then they tell store owners to put their most expensive products on those shelves. Or marketers have used vision heat mapping for years to determine what bores and interests consumers then determined the best placement for ads and other visuals on a website. However in recent years, eye-tracking technology has being adopted in a wide range of commercial products simultaneously.

VR headset companies, in a push to create a more immersive experience, are making large investments in eye-tracking technology as it is considered to improve general AR/VR headset comfort and usability. While Fove, a Kickstarter-funded project, is the first VR headset to have embedded eye-tracking; Google and Facebook who has acquired eye-tracking startups are not very far behind. Fast forward and imagine you’re surfing the Web or playing a game inside a VR goggle with eye-tracking. Rendering will be faster because it can match the quality to your gaze direction. Areas in the center of your vision will be rendered in high resolutions and other areas away from the center of vision will be shown in lower resolution. User interface will also be easier because UI elements can respond to your gaze. Interaction with virtual characters will also become more natural.

In automotive industry, car manufacturers including General Motors and Toyota have put funds into research toward vision- and attention-monitoring systems that would make use of eye-tracking tech to improve safety. If the car knows where a driver is looking—through sensors and cameras—it could alert him or her to potential dangers outside the vision. Or the system can sound an alert if there are changes in eye movement such as closing eyelids (drowsiness detection). IriTech’s precise localization (segmentation) of pupil center and border technology will improve the accuracy of eye-tracking solution; hence makes the system more effective.

According to recent market researches, the global eye tracking market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of more than 30% during 2017 and 2021. The emerging market for self-driving automobiles and increasing application for eye-tracking systems in healthcare and automobile are expected to be one the key drivers. Although there are certain challenges in the way of eye-tracking technology moving into mainstream but it’s no doubt a good way to enhance user interface experience.