Intel Invests $4.6M in Eye-Tracking company AdHawk Microsystems

Intel Invests $4.6M in Eye-Tracking company AdHawk Microsystems

Intel has invested $4.6 million in AdHawk Microsystems, a company that makes camera-less eye tracking. This is latest among arms race around the technology and it is one of the next need for both VR and AR devices.

Big companies are starting to swallow up eye tracking outfits. / bought Eye Tribe at the end of 2016, Google bought a company called Eyefluence, and Apple snapped up SMI this summer. The SMI acquisition was a particular coup, because prior to being bought by Apple, we found SMI’s promising tech in both an HTC Vive demo and as part of Qualcomm’s VR accelerator program. Other eye-tracking companies remain independent, such as Fove, QiVARI, and Tobii.

Glasses Integration: Rendering of AdHawk Microsystems technology in a pair of glasses

AdHawk says its technology is largely apart from the competition as they doesn’t use cameras. Camera-based eye tracking essentially works by taking hundreds of pictures per of the eye and using algorithms to sort them out and and determine position. They also can require especially bright LEDs to light your eyes for the cameras. That all introduces latency and requires power, however small.

Headset Integration: Rendering of a headset using the eye tracking technology developed

AdHawk describes its microsystem:
AdHawk’s eye tracker replaces the cameras with ultra-compact micro-electromechanical systems – known as MEMS – that are so small they can’t be seen by the . These MEMS eliminate power-hungry image processing altogether, resulting in order-of-magnitude improvements in the speed, form factor and energy efficiency of the VR/AR units that carry them, while delivering resolution on par with expensive, research-grade systems.

MEMs on Finger: The size of the technology for eye tracking developed

Like some other eye tracking solutions, AdHawk’s technology predicts where you will look next up to, it claimed, 50 milliseconds in advance. The MEMS system has an LED beam that scans the eye, and using a photo diode, can detect eye position. This all runs on a CMOS, although it’s not using the CMOS to build an image. AdHawk said that its solution requires precious little power, claiming that it could run for a full day on nothing more than a coin-cell battery. Further, the design consists of just two chips and a serial protocol (a three-wire interface). Ostensibly, the whole eye tracking system is incredibly lightweight in every sense of the word, making it ideal for virtually any headset, tethered or mobile.

AdHawk is manufacturing at wafer scale to reduce costs, anticipating a high volume of system integration. That should put the price at around $10+ per eye, although of course the actual cost will vary quite a bit depending upon volume and the difficulty of a given system integration. For example, if AdHawk has to provide more support services during that process, the costs go up.

The funding from Intel should get AdHawk through the next 18 months and help it acquire manufacturing capabilities, but it will also fund the company’s next project: 3D gesture sensor. This sensor projects a sphere (10cm volume), around, for example, a watchface. It purportedly can detect gestures within a 25-micron resolution on the X, Y, and Z axes. For example, you could swipe a smartwatch keyboard in the air instead of having to actually touch (and therefore, immediately visually occlude) the watchface itself. It could also be used to offer a virtual keyboard on any surface. AdHawk described this technology as ‘a low-power, ultra-precise gesture sensor and a point cloud scanner module for -resolution 3D sensing’. With it, the company is again leveraging MEMS technology. It borrows much of its technology from the eye tracker, in fact. For now, though, AdHawk is pushing its eye tracking technology. Head Mounted Device makers can request a device and an evaluation kit by contacting the AdHawk directly.


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