Japanese startup FOVE is looking to improve the VR industry with a new headset that senses not only a user's head movement but which also tracks eye movement. The implications of the new headset range from improvements to how immersive and interactive media consumed via VR is, to new ways to optimize the technology for efficiency. The headset will be made possible, according to FOVE, thanks to a partnership with Osram Opto Semiconductors' ChipLEDs which "provide infrared illumination" to track eye motion and the direction in which a wearer is looking. FOVE representative Lochlainn Wilson says Osram IR LEDs were chosen because the company behind the tech provides high-quality products that meet the specifications needed. Moreover, the main deciding factor came down to the specific light spectrum provided by Osram's LEDs, which allowed FOVE to "streamline" its optical filter design process while "maximizing" sensor performance.
Regarding the actual technology, the eye tracking will work by catching infrared reflections bounced off of the user's eye with an IR-sensitive camera sensor. The infrared light itself will be provided by multiple Osram LEDs mounted around two separate lenses inside the headset. The wavelength of the infrared light is fine-tuned to 850nm, matching the spectral sensitivity of the camera sensors. The beam from each of the LEDs – which measure just 0.5 x 1.0 x 0.45mm in size – is angled to +/-70 so that it illuminates each eye evenly. The system then uses an algorithm to determine in which direction a wearer is looking and to register other eye movements.
The inclusion of infrared sensors in its high-end headset will allow for several massive improvements and consequently make VR more accessible because tracking eye motion means that the media doesn't have to be displayed at the highest resolution all the time across the entire screen in both displays. Instead, with ChipLEDs, VR systems can adjust the resolution to provide high resolution in portions of the screen on which the user is focused while lowering the resolution in areas of peripheral vision. The result would be VR that should be less taxing for whatever system the content is being pushed through, meaning lower-end hardware may be supported. That adjustment would also make the content display in a way that is much more similar to how the human eye already works naturally, which could add to how immersive the content feels. That can be added to in other ways since eye tracking should allow for more immersive interaction with the content because it provides new trigger mechanisms to developers, FOVE claims.