The bleeding edge: When Sony first unveiled its upcoming next-generation VR headset, it already confirmed eye tracking, which is a significant new step for consumer-level VR. Now we know the eye-tracking technology will come from Tobii, a leading company in the sector.
On Friday, Tobii announced a deal to incorporate its eye-tracking technology in PlayStation VR2. The company already has experience bringing the functionality to headsets, but the PlayStation 5 accessory presents the first opportunity to introduce it to a mainstream audience.
Modern VR headsets already use motion sensing to track a user’s head and limbs — key to making them feel grounded and immersed in virtual environments. It also gives users additional input mechanisms. Eye-tracking takes this a step further by detecting what pixels the user is looking at, which could have multiple uses.
Eye movement, visual focus, and blinking could become new input methods. Theoretically, developers could design games with better performance by only fully rendering areas of the environment where the player’s eyes are focused.
So far, only extremely expensive work-oriented VR and AR headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 (starting at $3,500) or the HTC Vive Pro Eye ($1,400) include eye-tracking. Sony hasn’t provided pricing or a release date for PS VR2, but it will probably be much cheaper, bringing the feature to a new audience of gamers and game developers.
Apple’s rumored VR/AR headset and Project Cambria — Meta’s Quest successor — will also likely include eye-tracking. They and PS VR2 appear to represent the next generation of consumer-level VR headsets.