What is Vive Pro Eye?
When the HTC Vive was first released way back in 2016, it made an enormous and lasting impression in the gaming and computing community. The Vive practically defined high-end VR technology at the consumer level. Despite the cumbersome limitations of this Head Mounted Display system, it delivered the kind of quality which could only be described as VR dreams. Using a couple of base tracking modules to define a gaming or movement space, the user was able to interact with a fully enclosed VR environment by moving around and using a pair of hand controllers. What more, the headset had a front-facing camera on it to enable the user to view his actual real environment when needed.
The Vive sported a display resolution of 1080 x 1200 per eye, a 90Hz refresh rate and 110-degree field of view which was already really leading edge back then and quite powerful to date. In fact, the Vive was the Numero Uno HMD in terms of power and quality except for it's irksome wiring connections to a powerful PC needed to deliver the VR quality it did which was it's major drawback. Regardless, who could forget VR games and apps like Job Simulator, Beat Saber, The Lab and Robo Recall among others. For many who have used the Vive, a session with it was usually an unforgettable experience.
A couple of years later, Valve released the Vive Pro. Basically a souped-up version of the venerable HTC Vive, aside from now having two forward-looking cameras and an increased display resolution of 1400 x 1600 per eye (78% increase in resolution compared with the Vive), the audio capability was enhanced as well. Where the Vive used a 3.5mm headphone input and a built in mic, the Pro came with high performance built-in headphones with amplification and 3D spatial sound. It sported dual microphones with active noise cancellation. The ergonomics was also adjusted as the headphones could be tilted upward when not needed. Instead of Velcro, the Pro used an adjustable dial to loosen or tighten the straps.
The basic system design operation however didn't change that much although the Pro now uses a Display Port 1.2 connection instead of the usual HDMI used by the Vive. However, the increase in performance quality was really notable especially when it came to the clarity of the display. The text became clearer, the textures smoother and the overall environment crisper making everything more stunning and realistic to look at. Still, though the tether to the PC was re-designed to be less annoying, you where still stuck within the confines of a movement area still designated by a couple of lighthouse tracking stations. However, the hand controllers have been re-designed for better ergonomic comfort and controllability.
The Vive Pro compared to the Vive is already quite an advancement in HMD quality and performance though still very much within the range and limitations of current consumer VR technology. Unfortunately, till the time comes when computers with enough computing and graphic processing power can be shrunk enough to fit into a headset, the tether will remain. Just to mention that though the Oculus Quest has achieved self-contained portability, the PC connected Vive Pro is still at the top of the quality and performance list.
Again, a year later, Valve released another enhancement for the Vive Pro with another new HMD, the Vive Pro Eye. Unlike the Vive and Vive Pro, the Pro Eye however is targeted towards industrial, commercial and specific oriented use. Again, the headset specs have been upgraded but the most major advancement would be the Eye Tracking technology now built into it. Basically, it looks like and functions like a usual Vive Pro with lighthouse tracking units and all but has added features like a G-sensor, gyroscope, proximity and IPD sensor and the option (because of the eye tracking) to do away with using the hand controllers as required for both the Vive and Vive Pro.
The Pro Eye aside from retinal movement tracking uses a technique called “Foveated Rendering”. The idea is to focus the rendering in high-res to a confined area in the overall VR environment where your eyes are focused on. The PC is then able to greatly increase the quality of the displayed graphics as the rendering power is concentrated on a small area only know as the fovea which you are currently looking at. The effect is so realistic and quite unnerving for those who experience it. The lenses of the HMD are then ringed with LED sensors that not only track your retinal movements but analyze them as well. This way, the app being run is able to accurately determine where you are exactly looking at and act as the controller device.
To imagine how it works, a similar principle has been developed for quadriplegics and disabled individuals with limited movements which has been applied to playing and interacting with Minecraft. The system is called EyeMine where the disabled player using an eye tracking camera can control the options, menus and commands of an EyeMine modified copy of Minecraft by simply looking at it and thus play the game. With Pro Eye, since it can analyze your retinal movement as well, the application potential is greatly enhanced.
As of now, applications in car sales, public speaking training, engineering design and development are already being developed if not explored. The potential for use with the disabled would no doubt allow them to join in and benefit from the use of VR as well. Just imagine "RockyNoHands" pummeling his opponents in a game of PUBG VR with his wheelchair in the middle of the Vive play space.
For now, development of applications that can and will make good use of the technology are needed to make the Vive Pro Eye a viable if not popular headset for future and continual use. And, with a price tag of around 1,600.00 USD, it's not going to be cheap. Then again, if you really don't have use of your hands, you can still say:
Look Ma, I'm playing VR. No Hands!