This short but ingenious video snippet from eye-tracking specialists Tobii was built to tease a social VR demo they’ve been working on for GDC next week. It aptly highlights the subtle yet striking enhancements that eye tracking may being to social VR applications.

We wrote just today that eye-tracking used inside virtual reality headsets, used to detect the gaze of the user, could play an extremely important part in making more realistic VR scenes at higher resolutions possible through the use of foveated rendering, but eye-tracking has important implications for a more human aspect of virtual reality.

Social VR has already proven itself as a potent example of the power that VR presence-inducing capabilities bring to online social interaction. Facebook recently showcased an impressive demonstration of how effective chatting with other humans inside a virtual space can be and how important that might be in the social media giant’s future offerings. However, despite the clever approximations of avatar mouth movement and hand gestures captured with Oculus Touch motion controllers, the dead eyes of the participants digital doppelgangers left something to be desired.

Swedish company Tobii, who has specialised in eye tracking since its inception in 2001, have produced hardware for gaze detection hardware in various guises for some time now, and has recently announced plans to bring its tech to virtual reality, via a $50M funding round.

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What you see (embedded above) is the company’s brief but intriguing video, built for posting to the HTC Vive subreddit /r/vive, to tease a new demo the company seem to be planning to show at next weeks Game Developer Conference in San Francisco. The demo is of a virtual avatar, standing in front of two virtual mirrors, demonstrating how much more relatable the character shown in the right hand mirror (showing eye tracking enabled) than the left (sans eye tracking). This, combined with emulated mouth movements alongside head tracking and hand motions via VR controllers, really will elevate the social VR experience.

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