Oculus seems to be on a bit of a hiring spree as of late; Facebook is advertising over 400 positions dealing with AR/VR via its job portal at the moment. One posting in particular at Facebook’s Reality Lab—Electrical Engineer – Eye Tracking in AR/VR—lends a healthy dose of credence to the belief that the company is indeed pushing to include eye-tracking in their next generation products.

Facebook has a few eye-tracking-centric job listings currently, including one for a computer vision engineer, a mechatronics engineer, and a few research positions opened to PhD-level candidates. However the prospective electrical engineer working on eye-tracking is specifically tasked with creating what the company calls “winning prototypes,” and releasing sub-systems that are “fully hardened” for high-volume manufacturing.

What’s more, Oculus says the candidate will be responsible for “productizing highly optimized electrical systems that are core to delivering transformative experiences in next generation Oculus AR and VR products.”

We knew Oculus was working on their own eye-tracking solution for a while now. Oculus chief scientist Michael Abrash has been steadfast in his belief—presented at both Oculus Connect 3 and last year’s Connect—that solid eye tracking will be achieved soon by 2022 (set back by one year by Abrash at OC5), making it an integral part of VR hardware.

Oculus ‘Half Dome’ prototype, Image courtesy Facebook

Not only has the company published a number of eye-tracking patents to underline this, but the company also showed off its varifocal display prototype headset at last year’s F8, dubbed ‘Half Dome’, which appeared to include eye-tracking.

So while all this talk of eye-tracking comes as little surprise, it’s  plausible that the company is getting closer to including the technology in a mass manufactured device(s).

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Sony Hints Next-gen PSVR Could Bring HDR, Wireless, Eye-tracking & More

Why is Eye-tracking Important?

Eye-tracking is typically mentioned in the same breath as foveated rendering, a technique of rendering high resolutions only in the center of your fovea – the small depression in the retina of the eye where visual acuity is at its highest. Although this is poised to bring on an age of higher and higher graphical fidelity at a reduced computing overhead (areas farther from your fovea are rendered at reduced quality), there’s actually a number of important use-cases for eye-tracking beyond foveated rendering.

Here’s a quick list of things eye-tracking could enable in the near-future:

  • Automatic user detection and adjustment
  • Varifocal displays
  • Foveated displays
  • Improved social VR
  • Intent and analytics
  • Active input
  • Healthcare and research

If you’re interested to learn more about eye-tracking, check out our article on Why Eye-tracking is a Game Changer for a comprehensive look.

Update (1:00 PM ET): In a previous version of this article, Facebook was referred to as the parent company of Oculus VR LLC. This, as of late last year, is no longer true, as Oculus has been fully absorbed into Facebook, becoming a division and no longer a limited liability company in its own right.

I’ve also given a bit of context when speaking about Michael Abrash’s belief in the future of eye-tracking as an integral part of VR headsets of the near future.

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  • Rogue Transfer

    Correction: There is no parent company – they are now as Facebook Technologies LLC.

    Since nearly a year ago, as covered widely in the VR media, Oculus no longer has company status and was absorbed into the Facebook AR/VR division of Facebook Technologies LLC, when the former Oculus CEO left and that post/company removed.

    • Hi Rogue Transfer. Thanks for the clarification on parent company vs. division. I’ve updated the article to correct that mistake.

      As for Abrash, a 12-month setback isn’t exactly a strong condemnation of the technology’s forward progress, although I can see how saying ‘soon’ without the proper context could be misleading. I’ve added a bit here too to make it more clear.

      We always make a point to read comments, and own up to mistakes as they happen. Thanks again for the comment!

      Best,
      Scott

  • Adrian Meredith

    Is the eye tracking a hardware or a software issue? If it’s just software, then they need to ship the hardware now so that they can do the research and feedback. Just because it’s not perfect for foveated rendering yet doesn’t mean it’s not still useful

    • Vavari

      Hardware, it needs to work faster than your eye moves (for example foveated rendering needs to render full resolution where it needs to before you will even see what and where you want to see, before your eye will reach the point and the brain process it. It’s really tight time frame) and be reliable 99.99% of the time for all kinds of eyes, for glasses users etc. Also, it needs to be affordable (at least after a while) because it’s the Oculus goal for VR to be affordable.

    • No Spam

      There’s a synergy between the hardware and software. While everything Vavari says is true, the hardware also needs to capture the right data for the software to become as close to 100% accurate as possible. And you may not know what that data will be until the software is figured out.

      Shipping hardware without software can be very problematic. What if you come up with the perfect algorithm but it requires hardware you didn’t include, like a depth sensor or multiple cameras per eye? Or you throw a bunch of pricey hardware into a shipping HMD and then discover an algorithm that uses simpler hardware? You’ve just increased your (and your customers’) costs for no reason, or now have to go through a costly redesign.

      Tesla’s shifting language on self driving car capabilities provide an interesting case study on this (https://www.thedrive.com/tech/26840/tesla-transforms-full-self-driving-and-tesla-network-language). And note I’m not a Tesla hater or self driving skeptic – it’s just that this stuff is a lot harder than people expect (eye tracking and self driving).

    • Buddydudeguy

      How could it be software? Think about what you’re asking.

      • Dave

        Buddydudeguy thats probably the dumbest response I’ve read on roadtovr and there have been some corkers. Will you agree that
        foveated rendering can not be solved by hardware alone? If you actually listen to Micheal Abrash speaches you’ll learn that there are problems than need to be addressed on the hardware and software sides, not just hardware.

        • Buddydudeguy

          Don’t be dense. Foveated Rendering requires hardware to tracking your eyes.

  • doug

    Correction: Why is eye tracking important TO FACEBOOK?
    1) Ad revenue. Advertising can be billed based on gaze frequency and duration.
    2) Profiling. Recording eyegazing is the closest thing to mindreading short of an EEG.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Oh please get your head out of your ass..

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    • Jonathan Winters III

      True, actually.

    • Blaexe

      The irony is that HTC has been doing targeted advertising in VR for years. But maybe it’s also important to Facebook because it’s simply necessary for VR to evolve massively.

    • namekuseijin

      I’ll ok getting bra ads as long as the boobs are always well defined as I take a peek

    • dsadas

      at the first point I don’t understand why that would be in facebook interest.

  • Rosko

    They took on a huge number of staff about 4 months ago that mostly looked like research & development. I’m really hoping we get an Oculus Rift 2 before 2020 is over.

    • Bob

      “I’m really hoping we get an Oculus Rift 2 before 2020 is over.”

      Not going to happen. You’re looking at Spring 2021 at the earliest.

  • oompah

    great
    and if u add ray tracing with foveated rendering
    u reach Matrix level
    And when u start living in Matrix & interact with its economy
    with Libra crypto coin alongwith ur
    identities authenticated by FB database
    & tracked by spy agencies aka agents
    u get perfect situation for Neo , Morpheus & Trinity
    to free u from the tentacles of technological slavery.
    Btw have I gotten carried away?
    Well , wherever u have humans interacting , u always get
    Ep$teins, CIintens , 0bamas
    $uckers

  • Élio Isaac

    Could eye tracking and foveated rendering help with not having to use glasses in vr?

  • Will they showcase something about that at OC6?