Apple’s AR Headset Will Include These Cool Eye Tracking Features

AR eye tracking eyeball Credit: metamorworks / Shutterstock
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We already have it on good authority that Apple’s first augmented reality wearable — its much-vaunted mixed reality headset — is going to be a premium device, and that’s only becoming more obvious as we continue hearing about all the cool advanced tech that Apple is planning to pack into it.

We’ve known for years that Apple has been hard at work on an augmented reality and/or virtual reality headset, but it wasn’t until a few months ago that Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman cast it in a whole new light, emphasizing that the first model won’t be made for the masses.

Instead, it looks like Apple is pulling out all the stops to create the most impressive mixed-reality headset that it can, with a list of features that already include a processor that will outperform Apple’s already insanely fast M1 chip, along with LiDAR scanners, 8K displays, and a whopping 15 independent camera modules.

Further, just in case there was any doubt about how serious Apple is, it’s been assigning its heaviest hitters to lead the AR headset team — a clear sign that Apple wants to make sure that this product succeeds at all costs.

The price tag for the first AR headset is expected to be no less than $1,000, although some analysts have predicted it could sail north of $3,000, putting it on par with Microsoft’s HoloLens. Either way, sources say that Apple’s not expecting to sell more than one headset per day, per retail store, at best.

But There’s More…

If all of that advanced technology isn’t already enough to whet your appetite, however, it looks like Apple has at least one more big thing up its sleeve: a sophisticated eye-tracking system.

Although we’ve already heard murmurings about this, and in fact Apple acquired a firm specializing in eye-tracking tech almost four years ago, this latest report comes from none other than the venerable Ming-Chi Kuo.

Based on specifications that he’s seen coming out of Apple’s Asian supply chain, Kuo predicts that the headset will feature an eye-tracking system that will not only be able to detect where a user is looking, but also whether they are blinking, and possibly even analyzing pupillary dilation.

According to Kuo, eye-tracking could replace the need for handheld controllers for many applications, perhaps even obviating them entirely.

Kuo outlined all of this in a note to investors, where he also predicts that eye tracking will become the dominant human-machine interface technology for AR and VR wearables.

For example, in simulated environments, eye movement could be used to both interact with content and also ensure that it remains in the field of view as they look around. However, it could also be used to operate the UI, allowing users to do things like activating menus by blinking, or getting additional information on an object by focusing on it.

Since Apple also plans to pack in 8K displays, there’s also the possibility that the eye-tracking could be used for the more practical purpose of optimizing processing power by only performing full-resolution rendering in those areas of the screens that the user happens to actually be looking at.

It’s important to note that this isn’t just idle speculation on Kuo’s part either. The analyst suggests that he’s seen specifications on the actual eye-tracking module, which he describes as a complex piece of technology that uses multiple wavelengths of invisible light reflected off the user’s eyeball.

Biometric Authentication

The sophisticated eyeball sensors may also allow Apple to use them for biometric authentication, with iris recognition identifying the user both to unlock the headset as well as for things like Apple Pay.

Kuo admits that it’s uncertain right now if the technology supports iris recognition, or even if Apple plans to implement it, but he does believe that the specs bear out the possibility that it could happen.

To be clear, iris recognition is not the same thing as retina scans. While retina scanning has been used for a couple of decades by government and medical agencies, iris scanning is a somewhat newer and more efficient technology that provides most of the same benefits with fewer downsides — assuming of course it’s implemented properly.

A retina scan beams light into the user’s eyeball, and while it’s technically more accurate than an iris scan, it’s also more complicated and expensive to implement. An iris scan still provides a biometric signature that’s considerably more reliable than Touch ID or Face ID, and yet it can be implemented with little more than a proper high-resolution camera, and of course, it’s not considered an “invasive” authentication method since it doesn’t require shining a beam into the back of your eyeball.

[The information provided in this article has NOT been confirmed by Apple and may be speculation. Provided details may not be factual. Take all rumors, tech or otherwise, with a grain of salt.]

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