Tobii Pro combines eye tracking with VR to understand human behaviour

Tobii Pro combines eye tracking with VR to understand human behaviour

eye tracking using vr technology tobii pro
Tobii Pro's eye tracking VR solution can be used to simulate retail environments to test the effectiveness of advertising.

Stockholm-based Tobii Pro is a world leader in eye-tracking technology, with its products and services used by businesses and academic institutions around the world. Now, it is combining eye tracking solutions with virtual reality. 

Eye-tracking technology is a widespread method employed by organizations and institutions keen to understand human behavior better. The movement of the eyes offers information about much more than what we are looking at. Eye tracking is also a doorway into what draws our attention and for how long it keeps it. It’s a simple, objective way to observe the conscious and unconscious mind at work.

There are plenty of parties interested in applying eye-tracking technology, from advertisers conducting market research to psychologists observing phobias.

In this regard, Tobii Pro has notched up a real track record. It currently provides eye-tracking research products and services to every one of the world’s top 50 universities, four of the top five global market research organizations and 18 of the world’s top 20 advertising spenders.

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Eye tracking meets VR

Tobii Pro has now announced new research solutions that combine eye tracking with virtual reality (VR). This will allow the company’s partners to conduct eye-tracking research within virtual environments, supporting potentially endless new experiments.

The new eye-tracking solution has been embedded into HTC’s Vive headset and comes with Tobii Pro’s software development kit. Researchers will now be able to conduct experiments in virtual environments that would otherwise be too costly, dangerous or difficult to create in real life.

Modernizing the toolkit

Tobii Pro’s new VR eye-tracking solution promises to open doors for researchers of human behavior. Most notably, scientists eager to better understand anxieties, phobias and disorders such as PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] can now carefully control stimuli, regulate scenarios and study without putting participants at risk.

This is because with VR, the real world can be duplicated to allow for stricter controls on variables than behavioural studies usually support.

The technology is also useful for testing professionals in disciplines where on-the-job training might put lives at risk. Tobii Pro highlights surgeons and crane operators as examples in which the need to ensure professional skills are constantly assessed and sharpened cannot be met in the real world.

Recreating these high-risk environments virtually and applying eye-tracking technology will provide objective insights into situational awareness and form an ideal training tool.

“Combining eye tracking with VR is growing as a research methodology and our customers have started to demand this technology to be part of their toolkit for behavioral studies,” said Tobii Pro president Tom Englund.

“The Tobii Pro VR Integration is our first step in making eye tracking in immersive VR a reliable and effective research tool for a range of fields. It marks our first major expansion of VR-based research tools.”

Read more: Lloyds is banking on Virtual Reality to attract top grads

The combination of eye tracking and VR could help researchers tackle phobias.

Retrofitting HTC hardware

Tobii Pro’s new VR solution is a retrofit of the HTC Vive business edition headset. It’s capable of eye tracking all types of eyes and collecting binocular eye tracking data at 120 Hz.

The headset can be used in conjunction with handheld controllers. It’s been designed not to compromise the user experience or the output of eye tracking data.