Tobii and Qualcomm's collaboration in the VR HMD (head-mounted display) space is a convergence of two recent stories, with Tobii's impressing showing of a prototype HMD device at CES featuring their eye-tracking technology, and Qualcomm's unvieling last month of their updated mobile VR platform, featuring the new Snapdragon 845.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform
What does this new collaboration mean for the VR industry? For now it means a new reference design and dev kit with the latest tech from Tobii and Qualcomm:
"As a result of their collaboration, Tobii and Qualcomm are creating a full reference design and development kit for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, which includes Tobii's EyeCore eye tracking algorithms and hardware design. Tobii will license its eye tracking technologies and system and collaborate with HMD manufacturers on the optical solution for the reference design."
The press release announcing this collaboration recaps the benefits of Tobii eye tracking in a mobile VR/AR device, which include:
- Foveated Rendering: VR/AR devices become aware of where you are looking and can direct high-definition graphics processing power to that exact spot in real time. This enables higher definition displays, more efficient devices, longer battery life and increased mobility.
- Interpupillary Distance: Devices automatically orient images to align with your pupils. This enables devices to adapt to the individual user, helping to increase the visual quality of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: By using your eyes in harmony with your hands and associated controllers, truly natural interaction and immersion, not possible without the use of gaze, is realized.
- Interactive Eye Contact: Devices can accurately track your gaze in real time, enabling content creators to express one of the most fundamental dimensions of human interaction – eye contact. VR technologies hold the promise of enabling a new and immersive medium for social interaction. The addition of true eye contact to virtual reality helps deliver that promise.
Tobii's prototype eye-tracking HMD
For its part, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845-powered VR mobile platform promises greater portability of a better VR experience, with expanded freedom on top of the improved graphics horsepower from the new Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 845. This portability includes 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) using external cameras to identify location within a room, eliminating the need for external room sensors.
"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale – the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."
It is up to developers, and consumer interest in VR moving forward, to see what this collaboration will produce. To editorialize briefly, from first-hand experience I can vouch for the positive impact of eye-tracking with an HMD, and if future products live up to the promise of a portable, high-performance VR experience (with a more natural feel from less rapid head movement) a new generation of VR enthusiasts could be born.