Today at HTC’s Vive Developer Meeting in Beijing and its simultaneous Shanghai-based Vive Ecosystem Conference, Chinese eye-tracking startup 7invensun debuted a new eye-tracking module that’s not only affordable at $150 (¥1100 RMB), but is designed to support all of HTC’s VR headsets, past and present.

Called Droolon F1, 7invensun’s new eye-tracking module was primarily announced to target the company’s upcoming Vive Cosmos, the inside-out tracked PC VR headset arriving on October 3rd for $700.

However, as an official product partner with HTC, 7invensun says that Droolon F1 will also be compatible with the original Vive, Vive Pro, Vive Focus, and Vive Focus Plus.

Image courtesy 7invensun, via CNW

There isn’t any official information out there in English yet, although according to Chinese publication CNW (Chinese), Droolon F1 connects to the VR headset via USB and uses its USB port to provide dual-eye sync data. The standard version, CNW reports, has a sampling rate of 120 Hz, but can be customized to run at 240 Hz.

At the time of this writing, neither 7invensun nor HTC have mentioned what countries it intends on supporting at Droolon F1’s launch, however the $150 USD price was unveiled onstage at the enterprise-focused Shanghai event which points to a probable offering outside of China. Pre-orders are said to begin sometime in November with shipping taking place in December.

Image courtesy HTC

Unlike 7invensun’s previous aGlass modules, which used its own proprietary eye-tracking API, Droolon F1 is said to use HTC’s official eye-tracking API, SRanipal SDK. This essentially allows developers to target both Droolon F1 and Vive Pro Eye, HTC’s enterprise-focused headset with integrated eye-tracking.

Oculus Job Listing Points to Eye-tracking in 'next gen AR/VR products'

The size of the module is also said to be smaller in comparison to the company’s previous eye-trackers, weighing in at only 60g (~2.1 oz). It’s said to feature a more convenient assembly, taking a purported three-minutes of setup time.

Image courtesy 7invensun, via CNW

7invensun initially launched its first aGlass module (DK1) for HTC Vive at the end of 2016, and later released the second iteration in 2017. Shortly afterwards, the company was accepted into HTC’s second batch of Vive X accelerator, which provided the company financial investment and mentorship. One short year later, the 7invensun confirmed aGlass DK2’s compatibility with Vive Pro.

As with its previous products, Droolon F1 is being targeted at developers. Current apps and games can’t make ready use of eye-tracking without being created specifically for the task, although the low price point may prove tempting to not only a wide array of developers, but (ultra) early adopters who want to experience the first experiences made specifically with eye-tracking in mind.

If you want to learn about eye-tracking and its many uses, check out our deep dive article on why eye-tracking is a game changer for VR.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Jarilo

    Very cool , but I’ve got WidmoVR lens inserts on all my HMDs and I’m gonna take a guess that it’s a no go with both.

    • TJ Studio

      I’m sure 7invensun will make an officia prescription lens inserts as a add-on for their eye tracking module.

      • Jarilo

        Hope so.

  • Dynastius

    This is great, but what we need is an HMD with eye tracking built in. An add-on product like this that requires developers to support it to get any benefit out of it isn’t likely to be successful.

    I’m so disappointed in this supposed 2nd generation of HMDs. Yeah there are some improvements, but mostly just in resolution.

    Maybe HMDs will do the Tick Tock upgrade method we have seen with CPUs and phones? I really hope not as I don’t want to have to wait 3 or 4 more years to see significant improvements.

    • Mradr

      Well – as an optional upgrade – it wont benefit everyone right off – but it does allow devs and beta testers access to software to start making games now instead of later. There for allowing much better software for when the whole thing gets ship out as a package.

      Right now – even if it did ship with it as a single package – there would be no software to make use of it or not enough to really matter. Plus there are always things that need to be corrected later down the road – so this would be consider a good balance for people that are looking to bring their software in later/prepare for eye tracking now – create ideas – test ideas – etc then later release with eye tracking built in.

      At 150 – it really opens the door for even none big budget companies to get start with it and customers to help test software along side with the devs.

      • Dynastius

        Sure, I agree it’s useful for developers and tinkerers. But for an average user like myself, not so much. As far as the argument that even if it was included with a headset there wouldn’t be much use to it, it would just be the same situation as there was when the CV1 or Vive launched. There wasn’t that much software because it was a new platform.

        Presumably, everything developed specifically for an HMD with eye tracking would take advantage of that feature. Some existing games / applications would also likely be updated to support eye tracking in some capacity.

        It’s the same chicken and egg problem that always happens when something new comes out in computer hardware. It’s hard to get software devs to support it if its not selling well, and no one wants to buy it if it’s not got lots of software.

        • Mradr

          Not True – we had DK units to create software first with unless you forgot? Even Vive had a few out in the wild. This is no different than a DK unit that will allow some software to be created for release.

          Yes, this product doesn’t make sense for you right now until they put it inside the headset for the every day Joe. Really you should be looking at this as the future – but other wise ignore it in a way until more software comes out and uses it (in a year?) as a final upgrade to the device before switching over the to Cosmos 2.

          For devs/beta users – this makes total sense and puts pressure on other companies to get their eye tracking ready as HTC will have a headset on a publicly available product that users can already start using to create their games on along with an API already in use by their HTC Vive Pro headset.

          • Immersive_Computing

            HTC also has considerable market share in Asia where Oculus and others have little to no presence, Asia is a huge market with the Chinese showing huge interest both at government level and consumer.

        • Mradr

          Also sorry for double posting – but software in a different beast. Even if it was simple to add eye tracking – it takes time for us to create software to use it – not even use it – but find ways to really use it that makes sense. I could add eye tracking at any time to a game – but what would be the point if it doesn’t do anything useful or reacts in a way that doesn’t make sense? For example, FOVA rendering sounds amazing for everyone – but what if FOVA rendering makes all the UI look nasty when turn on because it thinks its part of the background? You wouldn’t like that – and I wouldn’t know that with out first trying it out my self and then spending more time to create a work around as well.

          so I agree there is a bit of a chicken an egg problem – but there is a bigger problem in that there is a time to market problem as well and something like this product helps a bit to that problem than the chicken to egg problem that HMD/VR has in general.

          • doug

            I don’t understand your talk about needing developer support. If Nvidia is ready to capitalize on eye tracking with foveated rendering support, this hardware is cheaper than a faster GPU.

          • Mradr

            Yes – but as a programmer I would still need to figure out how to use it – for example for FOVA and how it effects other parts of my design. How to use it for UI designs – how to use it for AI interactions – etc etc – so yes it would take time as a developer to fully flush out the the use of it with in a title there for you have to deal with a delay before it makes it to the market. No different than we see today with NV DLSS.

            If my goal as a dev is to keep a head of the times – then this would allow me to get there no problem of course – meaning – by the time Cosmos 2 came around – I would have software ready to release on day one OR later on depending on how large the product is (some software tiles taking at least 3-4 years to create).

            NV only supports FRS – not at the game engine support for eye tracking it self. So while yes NV is ready to capitalize on eye tracking – it itself doesn’t really do the eye tracking – its the game engine that does that feeds that information about to the GPU to perform FRS and other methods to gain all the increase performance.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      we need, we need, we need…. first there should be devs to actually create the content for it, and have drivers actually use eyetracking for things like foveated rendering.. It’s already in a much higher cycle than we’ve seen since the 90’s..

      • Graham J ⭐️

        Ideally game devs shouldn’t have to think about it. If foveated rendering support appears in engines and tracking APIs are added to VR APIs then headset makers should fall in line. Then devs can start using the tracking data for interesting things.

  • Niklas Fritzell

    Looks really promising, but pointless to get one now if there is no software supporting it. This should be included with the Cosmos for that high asking price imo.

  • Wow. I’m so losing interest in VR. I’ve been developing for it and loving it at home and wanting to toss money at people for something… anything.

    But this market is just goofball stupid and I’m basically stone cold bored and none of this crap looks even remotely interesting.

    Sitting down in front of an Xbox game is refreshing relief from the utter pain in the ass of VR.

    • Niklas Fritzell

      I think VR has its bright sides but I can also relate to the Xbox relief sensation. Gears 5 is great fun
      in split screen. VR so far is more about experiencing a game rather than chilling with it. (And a little goes a long way)

    • Mradr

      I get board with flat screen games though at times. Then there is the issue I wanna do something in a game – but I can’t such as explore the environment and moves things around inside it that you can’t get in flat screen gaming. Granted there are many things you can’t do in VR either that you can in flat screen gaming as well. They are just different type of way of experiences of a virtual world though and they should be split like that at times. Same as Final Fantasy not to Call of Duty.

    • Branton Dark

      Start developing for the Quest, that is where all the money and excitement is. Facebook has tons of money to give to devs to develop for it and it’s kind of like the old days where you would have a console that was greatly limited by it’s hardware processing power and devs have to be imaginative. PC-VR is suited for the big AAA developers, which is slowly moving, but silly to put your own effort into when there are literally 4000+ steamvr games.

  • Graham J ⭐️

    Just in time for everyone to be ditching HTC for the Index.

    • Charles

      Vive Pro is still the second-best headset, though overpriced. Odyssey+ is first-best. Non-OLED is non-okay for VR.

      • Immersive_Computing

        It’s a stretch to say Odyssey+ is first best?

        The headset has ergonomic problems for many and is crippled by the crude feeling WMR controllers and their limited tracking; I couldn’t live with it after Rift CV1 and Vive.

        If Microsoft and partners are serious about staying relevant in VR, they urgently need WMR V2 with redesigned controllers and multi camera tracking – Rift S with 5 camera and Cosmos with 6 camera demonstrating it’s required for quality inside out tracking.

        • Mike

          Every headset has its pros and cons. I’ve owned 9 headsets, and I like the O+ much better than any other. The Ergonomics issues are fixed with a VR Cover. The tracking is fine as long as you keep your controllers in front of you – usually pretty easy to do.

      • Graham J ⭐️

        Headsets are a collection of competing compromises so “best” is not a great term to use. You’re certainly welcome to your opinion but there are several categories in which Index objectively beats the O+ such as SDE, subpixel density, refresh rate, sound quality, adjustment range, tracking, controllers etc.

        • Mike

          I agree that every headsets has its pros and cons. But I’ve owned 9 headsets, including the Reverb, and I definitely prefer the O+ above all others. It’s objectively the best unless you really can’t tolerate occasional black smear or inability track behind your back, really need maximum sharpness (like Reverb) or strongly prioritize refresh rate (Index). The Index slightly beats the O+ in subpixel density, but it does NOT beat the O+ in SDE – the O+ is definitively better there. The SDE on the O+ looks the same as the Mura on the Reverb – you have to search for it to see it. Also, something nobody ever mentions – the O+ has more vertical FOV than any other headset (when worn right) – which is a huge deal and something I really wanted before I got the O+.

  • Branton Dark

    lol, HTC straight up lying to everyone with technology that does not work and is not remotely ready yet. They have not solved the high latency of eye-tracking, they have not solved foviated rendering. They didn’t learn their lesson with the Vive Pro Eye. Now they will have idiots buying this accessory that they can’t use. HTC is broke and worthless, now they are desperate for money by scamming everyone.

    • doug

      Says it samples at 120 Hz.

  • Nifty! So I’m guessing they aren’t doing Oculus because there is no Eye Tracking officially supported for Oculus? Sounds like they are just trying to undercut the Tobii. That’s fine by me! What Tobii is charging for their kit is RIDICULOUS.

    Whatever happened to SMI Eye Tracking?? They were promising 250Hz eye tracking for $10 over 2 years ago. We had such hope they would be installed in all new headsets by now, but they vanished without a word. :p

    • Zerofool

      SMI was acquired by Apple in 2017 :(