We've been shipping Bigscreen Beyond to customers for a few months now. Within a day of receiving their Beyond, some community members creating some amazing mods for it. Today, we’re going to talk about EyeTrackVR’s Bigscreen Beyond eye tracking mod.
EyeTrackVR is a community that built open source eye tracking modules for VR headsets that don’t have eye tracking built in natively such as the Valve Index. So why doesn't Bigscreen Beyond have eye tracking built in natively? One of our core design principles is that every gram matters. There are a lot of use cases in VR like racing sims or playing Half-Life Alyx or watching movies in Bigscreen where you don't necessarily need eye tracking. When building the world's lightest VR headset – a headset designed to be the most comfortable in the world to be worn for many hours straight – adding even an extra 20-30 grams for a feature you don’t always needs ends up being a 15-25% increase in weight and conflicts with our design principles. That's what's cool about this eye tracking mod. For use cases where you do want eye tracking – like VRChat – you now have a solution.
This mod is pretty easy to accomplish if you’ve tinkered with Raspberry Pi’s or Arduino’s before. The mod utilizes 3D printed parts and off-the-shelf components such as OmniVision cameras and IR LEDs. In total, the components cost just $50 (BOM), making it very accessible. It plugs right into the Beyond’s USB-C accessory port, and doesn’t require extra clunky cables going to your computer. Instructions on how to get started are available on EyeTrackVR’s documentation. Don’t forget to read EyeTrackVR’s IR LED safety guide as well.
Once you’ve got everything wired up, all you need to do is run EyeTrackVR’s software. It’s fairly plug and play and just needs some calibration and tweaking algorithms. This works with OSC compatible applications like VRChat and Resonite right away.
You’ll immediately notice eye tracking working on your VRChat avatars, capturing your eye movement and blinking for enhanced social VR presence. There are a few bugs and quirks with this earliest prototype of the mod, but the promise is clearly here. EyeTrackVR’s mod proves that eye tracking is possible with the Bigscreen Beyond and is only a matter of time before it becomes polished. It could be improved with better positioning of cameras, adding extra cameras, or even smaller cameras. Given that it’s open source and a passionate community of enthusiasts are tinkering with it, I’m expecting this will become an easy and full-featured eye tracking solution for the Beyond. The developer ProHurtz just demonstrated Dynamic Foveated Rendering support as well, which is particularly useful for using eye tracking to optimize performance requirements in demanding titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator.
Massive shoutout to ProHurtz for creating EyeTrackVR, and to community modders like Lenrui and Infotron for creating parts and sending a kit for us to try. We would love to support the modding community in creating an eye tracking kit for EyeTrackVR and the Beyond. We could help shrink the size of the PCBs to make it fit more easily without cables sticking out, design production quality (injected molded) plastic frames instead of 3D printed parts, make it an easy to use kit that requires no technical experience, and handle the manufacturing of such a kit. If you’re interested in an eyetracking addon for the Bigscreen Beyond, visit bigscreenvr.com/eyetracking and let us know!