How Eye Tracking is Driving the Next Generation of AR and VR

AR and VR are gearing up for a giant leap forward thanks to advancements in eye-tracking technology. The industry has been experiencing a boom in recent years with hundreds of startups and heavy investment from tech giants including Google, Apple, Samsung, and Facebook.
Despite all the activity, AR/VR hardware remains relatively crude. Most interfaces take cues from head movement and manual inputs. Graphics often appear artificial, and can be harsh on the eyes due to low resolution and slow frame rates.
Eye-tracking systems, which monitor eye movements in real time, promise to change this.
Historically, the technology has been used to collect information for scientific and business applications, such as market research and medical diagnostics. Because humans primarily use vision to navigate their environment, the eyes can reveal volumes about what’s happening in the mind.
They can tell a device what the user is focusing on and how they’re responding. In computing, eye tracking helps lay the groundwork for a revolution in human-to-machine relationships by allowing the control centers to “talk” to each other without manual inputs, such as buttons, controllers, or a mouse.
A smartphone or laptop monitor that responds to eye movement and verbal commands, for example, is working more closely with the human mind than the device that requires touch or mouse and keyboard. The evolution of Internet of Things (IoT), including driverless cars and smart appliances, relies on these types of relationships.
Thanks to tiny, powerful components, including compact infrared light emitting diodes (IRED), companies are finally integrating eye tracking sensors in their products. When done well, these systems could enable virtual displays that respond to natural, even subconscious, cues from the user. It could be the beginning of a truly immersive virtual experience.
Growing enthusiasm for consumer VR/AR is having a profound impact on the market. Already, nine percent of Internet-connected household in the U.S. expect to purchase a VR headset in the next year, while 24 million households worldwide will do so by the end of 2017, according to Parks and Associates. UBI Research expects total shipments to exceed 65 million units by 2021 and International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a five-year compound annual growth rate of 108.3% for AR/VR headsets.
In China alone, the consumer VR/AR market could reach $8.5 billion in the next four years, reports Bloomberg Technology. Meanwhile, Market Watch believes the eye tracking market will reach $1.4B by 2023 due, in part, to its role in VR/AR products.