Google buys Eyefluence to track eye movement in VR

25 Oct 2016

Image: rangizzz/Shutterstock

With Google’s latest acquisition of Eyefluence, the company aims to take its VR hardware to the next level by tracking eye movements in the virtual world.

Founded in 2013, Eyefluence is a start-up focused on the development of eye-tracking technology, particularly when it comes to both virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Its founder and CEO Jim Marggraff started the company off with equipment purchased from a neurological firm called EyeCom, and began using it as the platform to develop its technology.

Future Human

Reduces latency

Now, the company has revealed it has agreed a deal to join Google and its parent company Alphabet. The latter aims to build its VR and AR technology to make better use of our eyes, rather than our heads.

Current VR and AR technology is largely reliant on the user’s head movements – along with a camera recording – to locate their position in a virtual space.

If the same equipment could be used to track their eyes instead, it could be used not only by the average VR user, but particularly people who have limited physical movement.

It could also greatly benefit those who feel motion sickness while using VR headsets, as eye tracking could reduce the latency between the user and what they see on screen.

In a brief blog post, Eyefluence said: “With our forces combined, we will continue to advance eye-interaction technology to expand human potential and empathy on an even larger scale. We look forward to the life-changing innovations we’ll create together!”

Stand-alone Google VR device?

According to Crunchbase, the company raised $21.6m since it was founded, including a $7.6m investment from Intel Capital.

In a statement released to Mattermark, Intel Capital’s managing director for new technologies, Ameet Bhansali, said the acquisition is “further validation that AR/VR has arrived and will continue to have more meaningful applications in people’s lives.”

In a seemingly non-coincidental development, documents seen by The Drum revealed that Google is working on a wireless VR device that can work as a stand-alone item at frequencies as high as 5.8GHz.

Earlier this month, Google revealed its first major foray into VR hardware with Daydream, which will be significantly cheaper (at $79) than headsets like the Oculus Rift, with a cost of nearly €700.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic