Facebook acquires eye-tracking startup The Eye Tribe

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Facebook Inc. Wednesday acquired the Copenhagen-based eye-tracking startup The Eye Tribe ApS for its virtual reality headset, Oculus Rift, for an undisclosed amount.

The 16-person company, informally started at the IT University of Copenhagen in 2007, was officially launched in 2011 with a view to bringing affordable eye-tracking technology to consumer products. It did so with its latest product released early this year, the $199 Eye Tribe Tracker Pro. Some of the functions of the product included things such as aiming with your eyes while playing shooter games, automatic scrolling while reading, and zooming in on maps or photos where the user is concentrating.

Prior to the acquisition, The Eye Tribe had raised over $3 million in funding and had received $2.3 million from The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation. Last year at CES, the company demonstrated how its technology would interface with VR technology such as Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and the Samsung Gear VR. Its goal was to make eye tracking a standard features of VR headsets.

The advantage of the technology, known as foveated rendering, is that it reduced the load on graphics processors as well as power consumption. Foveated rendering allows the viewer to focus on one point in the virtual world, blurring the peripheries. The headset knows what you need to see.

Saving computational power is only one of ways how Oculus could benefit from eye-tracking. With such technology, social interaction in a virtual world gives your avatar eyes, allowing your interlocutor to see where you are looking.

For one, this would make game-play far more exciting. Far less exciting but equally important is the feedback eye-tracking tech will give to businesses. Knowing which advertisements people actually read could be valuable information.

Google Inc. is also seeing the sense in eye-tracking tech, acquiring California-based technology startup Eyefluence Inc. in October this year.

Photo credit: Kev-shine via Flickr