I Spy With My VR Eye

Publicly available retail headsets can only determine where a user’s head is turned, not where the user is actually looking. This is a subtle yet important distinction that leaves out a layer of complexity and depth to virtual interactions.


VR is a constantly evolving beast, and this article on its ‘next frontier’ caught my eye – pun very much intended. 

It discusses the eye-tracking technology which many VR players are currently exploring as a means of enhancing their platforms, and the details got me thinking about how the tech could by used in the cultural sector. In no particular order: 

  • The concept of foveated rendering (which I’ll admit is new to me) is intriguing. From what I gather, this essentially means that whichever point in a VR environment you are looking at gets rendered in the highest definition. This sounds like it could provide a really focused way of engaging with artworks or artefacts, allowing users to pick out details and otherwise overlooked features.
  • Behind the scenes, as eye tracking technology becomes more affordable, there’s an opportunity for institutions to run experiments with visitors to discover what aspects of galleries, displays, or individual pieces they’re subconsciously most interested in. In recording what people’s eyes are drawn to, museums and galleries can more sympathetically tailor their interpretation. 
  • And finally, the more nuanced means of navigating virtual spaces and worlds (i.e. removing the steps of extra head movements and pointing motion controllers in the direction you wish to travel) offers the broadest set of benefits. I’ve discussed cultural institutions which have created VR spaces in posts before, and anything which makes navigating them feel more natural has to be a good thing. 

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