HTC released the VIVE Pro Eye this year – the company’s first VR headset with built-in Tobii eye tracking.
This development marked an important step in increasing the adoption of VR within commercial and non-profit sectors for training and research purposes. Eye tracking within VR has the ability to revolutionize staff training by making it safer and quicker. The fact that it’s now more affordable makes it easier to scale. It’s equally beneficial within research–especially to gather accurate data on behavior and attention for marketing purposes.
In this blog post, Mattias Berglund, one of our global product managers, discusses some key topics surrounding the VIVE Pro Eye.
Left: VIVE VR headset with retrofitted eye tracking. Right: VIVE Pro Eye with fully integrated eye tracking.
The aim with the retrofitted VIVE headsets was to give early adopters of eye tracking in VR the possibility to start exploring the use cases of eye tracking in a virtual environment. During this time, Tobii has been working to get eye tracking into mass-market VR headsets. The VIVE Pro Eye delivers this–with eye tracking built-in to the headset from the beginning. The fact that you no longer need to add this aftermarket makes this technology much cheaper and easier to acquire, meaning more people can start exploring eye tracking in VR for both interactive and analytical use cases.
The combination of precision eye tracking with world-class graphics, high-end audio, and optimized ergonomics makes the VIVE Pro Eye incredibly versatile for research and training. The ability to capture deep analytics, maximize processing power (through foveated rendering), and enhance input and navigation is a game-changer for users and enterprises everywhere.
For those that are already using eye tracking in VR with our retrofitted VIVE headset, VIVE Pro Eye provides the possibility to start expanding their usage more cost effectively.
The applications for research within VR are immense–you can run wayfinding and shopper studies, conduct employee training and assessment, and even treat social or situational phobias within a safe environment. Some of the most popular uses we’re seeing however, are training and marketing research.
Running a study in a VR environment can be very valuable if, for example, you want to test packaging design, product placement, or store wayfinding and signage. Creating a physical environment can be costly and time-consuming, especially if you want to test multiple variables. With a VR environment, you can test many alternatives, many times, in many locations. This makes participant scheduling easier and removes almost all geographical limitations. When you have eye tracking combined with this, you can tap into essential insights on customer behavior, such as what captures their visual attention, how they view and interpret various messages, and how much of what they see influences their understanding and decisions.
Analyzing the eye tracking data can help inform effective design decisions before anything is spent on physical production or redesign. Major FMCGs are already doing this, and advertising giants like JCDecaux, are utilizing the benefits of VR and eye tracking to understand and measure the effectiveness of their digital airport display ads.
Professional training and assessment are other areas in which VR with eye tracking can be enormously beneficial. The main benefits are improved safety and the fact you don’t need to be in the physical environment to practice the task. With VR, you can train employees on dangerous tasks without any fear of consequences. You can practice skills without the need to halt operations or take machinery and equipment offline. You can replay gaze data to effectively illustrate tacit knowledge for improved training. This offers great potential in helping to bridge the knowledge gap which is widening as factories adopt more technology and skilled labor becomes harder to find.
There is also the obvious benefit of being able to train a large volume of staff at the same time without the need to interrupt normal operations. Companies like Walmart and Volkswagen are already extensively using VR to train new hires, while some airlines are using this tech to help educate pilots and crew members.
Eye tracking really takes this technology to the next level, providing deep user interaction and visual attention data which enhances your understanding of the cognitive processes and subconscious behaviors of staff and customers.
The VIVE Pro Eye marks the beginning of what I believe will be large-scale adoption of VR headsets equipped with eye tracking. As is the case with all new technology, it will gradually get cheaper and we will see it become easier to create VR environments–lowering the entry threshold.
With eye tracking inside VR now widely commercially available, I believe businesses and industries will start to realize the huge cost benefits of utilizing this technology to make their training safer and more efficient and streamline their processes. Businesses that are already using VR can expand this use to reap the benefits of eye tracking data, while those already using eye tracking on its own will be able to expand their research into the virtual world.
Mattias Berglund is a global product manager at Tobii Pro. He was instrumental in bringing the world’s first human behavior analysis tool with eye tracking for VR to the market and sets the roadmap for future developments of VR solutions. Berglund holds a Master of Science in Design and Product Realization from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.