The functional accessories for the HTC Vive continue to appear, and this next one is set to introduce much more flexibility to the headset. The aGlass Eye-tracking add-on dev kit will be available this month in China, for $220.
Created by the Vive X Accelerator program grantee 7invensun, the pair of add-ons are designed to slip into the HTC Vive without any additional hardware, and without any additional software if the user uses an Nvidia GPU in the base PC, although 7invensun promises to add AMD support in the future.
There’s a minimal amount of setup required, basically lining up the user’s direction of view with dots rendered through the Vive, so that the aGlass knows where a user’s gaze is pointing at any given time. Future applications will probably require some additional configuration, but no specific apps have been revealed at this early stage.
The aGlass isn’t hardware waiting for software developers to make use of it though; it can already serve to enable one of the more exciting features of VR: Foveated Rendering. Described simply, it’s a method of determining, and only rendering, the areas of a user’s view through a headset that is in focus for the user – the peripheral scene is rendered at a lower resolution. This saves on processing power, which is at a premium for VR applications due to the demands of a 90fps refresh rate and increasing resolution and quality of VR applications.
Foveated rendering also serves the additional benefit of a more “natural” view out of a headset – if done correctly. 7invensun promises latency of only 5ms, which would generally be undetectable for most users. This guarantees a smooth view that follows the user’s eye movement.
Other uses skew towards the obvious – the ability to track where a user is looking can be used in VR applications to create a more interactive experience; in the same way that using a mouse to roll-over an object on-screen will let you interact with said object, similar in function MSI’s Tobii eye-tracking equipped laptop the GT72S. The aGlass is also capable of integrating corrective lenses into its frame, which eliminates the need for the user to wear glasses beneath the Vive.
The aGlass is composed of IR LED lights arranged around the ring structure of the device, and a small camera that tracks eye movement. The pair is powered through the Vive’s center USB connector and should demand only minimal processing power from the host PC.
Consumer versions of the aGlass has not been announced yet, but I’d hazard a guess that technology this compelling will soon be seen in the regular user’s hands, even if just for the foveated rendering feature. Hopefully at a lower price point than the dev kit. 7invensun has high hopes for the technology if its website is any indication. There’s a lot to look forward to for VR applications.