As researchers and VR start-ups make great strides in increasing the sense of presence such as larger field of view, lower latency and more natural input, a Brighton based start-up has just announced a new technology that can track a user’s facial expressions without markers.
Emteq, with was founded with $1.5 million of seed funding, hopes their technology will enhance social engagement in the growing social VR space, which combines miniature sensors and artificial intelligence to enable digital avatars to mirror the user’s expressions and mood.
Emteq’s technology called “Faceteq” uses a range of biometric sensor techniques including electromyography (EMG), electrooculography (EOG), heart rate and more in the faceplate of VR headsets, such as Oculus Rift, which track the electrical current generated in the movement of facial muscles.
Unlike camera-based facial tracking systems, it also registers movements in eye, forehead and cheek muscles that are underneath a VR headset. Although this technology has clear applications for gaming and social VR apps such as vTime and the upcoming Facebook VR platform, the founders also plan to use the recorded data to analyse how audiences react to regular films and TV advertising.
Graeme Cox, the Chief Executive, co-founder of Emteq and serial tech entrepreneur, said: “Our machine learning combined with facial sensor technologies represents a significant leap forward in functionality and form for developers looking to introduce human expression and mood into a digital environment.
“Imagine playing an immersive role playing game where you need to emotionally engage with a character to progress. With our technology, that is possible – it literally enables your computer to know when you are having a bad day or when you are tired.”
Emteq joins a small but growing range of companies that hope to bring the user’s facial expressions into VR applications. FOVE VR is able to track a user’s eye movements allowing for people to take actions through eye gaze and blinking. It also goes towards a more natural way of viewing scenes in VR such as shifting focus with our eyes which we do in reality.
In July we reported news that Kickstarter project Veeso was aiming to be the first to market with a mobile VR headset that tracks your face’s movement; a system that uses head-mounted infrared cameras to track both your eyes and mouth for a greater sense of presence in virtual reality. Unfortunately that project was cancelled due to lack of funding, but what is exciting about Emteq is that their technology won’t be restricted to one headset.
What is important is that companies such as Emteq are able to garner enough support from developers and produce the required plugins for game engines such as Unity and Unreal to unlock its true potential.
Road to VR will be visiting Emteq within the next few weeks for a closer look and to try the technology first hand.