Google patents VR eye-tracking systems to read the emotional expressions of VR users

Google has patented a new eye-tracking system for VR technology that’s designed to read our emotions and expressions.

According to a recently published patent (via UploadVR) filed back in December 2017, the company is designing a system for "Classifying Facial Expressions Using Eye-Tracking Cameras" to enable our on-screen avatars to reflect or mirror our own facial expressions. By using one (or more) eye tracking sensors secreted within the headset – as illustrated by the image below – an AI algorithm will learn to interpret the shape and movement of our eyes and translate that into a readable expression on screen.

"Once trained, the machine learnt algorithm can identify a current expression of a user from a live input stream of images acquired by eye tracking sensors in the HMD worn by the user," the patent explained. "For example, the machine learn algorithm can generate labels of predicted expressions (or action units) for the user in each image of a video stream based solely on the input image captured by an eye-tracking sensor."

Oculus founder Palmer Luckey recently revealed that he believes "free isn’t cheap enough" to make virtual reality appeal to mainstream audiences, stating "no existing or imminent VR hardware is good enough to go truly mainstream".

"Recent market experiments with cheap VR hardware have shown that there are millions of people willing to buy said hardware, but very few among them continue to use the hardware or invest in the software ecosystem for very long," Luckey said. "This is true even when people get the hardware for free – the millions of cardboard boxes fulfilling their ultimate destiny on the back shelf of a closet don’t do much for the VR industry."

A report earlier this year said that consumer content and the apps market for AR and VR combined hit $3.2bn last year, giving a year-on-year growth of 72 per cent. $2bn of that came from apps with AR features – driven by "the high-profile releases of Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore SDKs that spurred interest in AR apps".

Former Oculus co-founder, Brendan Iribe, has now also parted ways with parent company, Facebook. Iribe – who founded Oculus in 2012 with Michael Antonov, Palmer Luckey, Nate Mitchell, and Andrew Scott Reisse – had been leading Oculus’ PC VR team, and is thought to have resigned when Facebook cancelled the "Rift 2" project, causing "fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus that grew deeper over time" that ultimately prompted Iribe’s departure.

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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