Apple’s widely rumored augmented reality headset is expected to sport eye tracking hardware as a means of user input, potentially eschewing the need for handheld controllers, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo.
Kuo in a note to investors on Friday said the headset will use a transmitter and receiver to detect eye movements, blinking and related information. The analyst believes eye tracking will soon be the most important human-machine interface technology for AR and VR wearables.
“The current head-mounted device products (mostly VR devices) are mainly operated by handheld controllers,” Kuo says. “The biggest challenge of this operation method is that it cannot provide a smooth user experience.”
Apple’s system will theoretically be able to use collected eye movement data to determine user interactions with a simulated AR environment. For example, images and onscreen content can be made to move in sync with a user’s eyes as they scan a provided external environment.
Eye tracking also serves as an intuitive mode of UI operation, as users can activate menus or access content by blinking repeatedly or staring at an onscreen object for an extended period.
Further, foveated rendering technology can optimize viewing area by monitoring the position of a user’s eye. This would allow the system to reduce screen resolution in areas that are not in immediate focus, thereby easing processing requirements.
According to Kuo, the transmitter is a complex module that emits several wavelengths of invisible light. This light reflects off a user’s eyeball and is detected by an accompanying receiver module. Eye movement is subsequently determined based on changes in the light’s properties.
Finally, Kuo says Apple might incorporate some form of iris recognition for biometric identification. The function could be used for user authentication and seamless Apple Pay transactions.
“We are still not sure whether the Apple headset can support iris recognition, but judging from the hardware specifications, the eye tracking system of this headset can support this feature,” he writes.
Kuo’s analysis of eye tracking technology reads like a summary of recent Apple patents filed over the past couple years. The tech giant has applied for, and has been granted, a number of patents related to eye tracking, gaze tracking and related technologies.
Just today, Apple filed a clutch of head mounted device patent applications, one of which covers an efficient method of eye tracking using low resolution images.