CES 2019: Eye tracking and POPULATION: ONE at HTC's CES booth

by: John -
More On: CES 2019

Having already demoed the eye tracking technology at Tobii's booth using an HTC VIVE Pro Eye, I was prepared for what was to come at HTC's booth at the Venetian.

To see how this tech could be used in other applications, I stepped into the demonstration area where they had an app that helped with public speaking. You're placed in a virtual room with a virtual audience and I was tasked to read a one minute speech from the CES 2019 keynote.

Before you could track the head position and hands giving you two sets of data to work with. But with the eye tracking module, now you have another data point an an important one at that to help you be more accurate with a training program like this public speaking app.

During my one minute speech, the app kept track of where I was looking around in the room with my eyes, my hand motions, and any speech inflections such as using the phrase like or umm. 

After the one minute recording, I was given a look back at how I did from a third person point of view. It showed how fast I talked, what my hands did, but more importantly, it showed where I was looking at. Not only could the application point to where I was staring at, it even showed a heat map of where I looked the longest. Of course since I didn't know the speech, the teleprompter took the brunt of my gaze. 

But you can see how awesome the eye tracking tech can be in applications like this to give you really informative data on how you are doing based on where you are looking. 

It's another effective tool that's being built into HTC's HMD and one that I really am excited to see developers in both the gaming space and other applications take advantage of.

The other demo I did at their booth was a playtest of POPULATION: ONE. By BigBox, POPULATION: ONE is a VR battle royale game that incorporates building mechanics like Fortnite, albeit a little more simpler in the demo.

Being in VR really takes the battle royale experience to another level and BigBox has some unique features for this genre. You can climb just by holding onto the grip button and dragging yourself up a vertical surface. Want to climb a tree? Just run up and physically use your hands to climb. Same with a brick wall. 

Now once you get up to some place high, you can jump off, put your arms to your sides, and glide around on the map. That sensation of gliding in VR is really fantastic and one that you really have to experience. I was able to smoothly transition from gliding into a wall to climbing and back to gliding by jumping off at the top without any trouble.

Guns are reloaded using a few moves rather than pressing a button to reload. For a a machine gun, you had to physically slide in the clip and pull back the charging handle. With a sniper rifle, you pop in the clip and pull back on the bolt after each discharge to reload. You don't have to be 100% accurate in reloading a gun as it's more of an action type system and it doesn't aim to get in the way of you preparing a gun to be fired like some other more realistic gun simulators.

Like other battle royale games, the play space shrinks over time so you'll be forced into an area with others sooner or later. Pressing on the left D-Pad brought up a map so you can see where your friends are and how the safe zone is shrinking. 

I'm not a big fan of battle royale games, but having a VR version was really damn fun. Just the rush of loading a gun, climbing surfaces, gliding around on a map in VR really changes how the game is experienced. 

This Unity based game is due out sometime in 2019, but you can sign up now to be in the beta test. And in case you were wondering, you can have up to 24 people playing at once.

Unfortunately, the VIVE Cosmos was only there for picture opportunities so no demos. It's something that I'm anxious to get my hands on and see what HTC plans on doing and how it fits into their lineup. But, it was nice to see it in person at least and here's hoping it won't be too long before we're able to try it out.

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