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HTC announces new Vive Pro Eye virtual reality headset with native eye tracking

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Opens up new possibilities for accessibility and hands-free interaction

HTC announced a new variant of its high-end Vive Pro virtual reality headset today at CES that comes with native, built-in eye tracking. The device is called the Vive Pro Eye, and it promises to bring higher-quality VR experiences, thanks to a technique called “foveated rendering” that renders sharp images for wherever the human eye is looking in a virtual scene and reduces the image quality of objects on the periphery. There’s no pricing yet, but it’s supposed to launch in the second quarter of 2019.

Eye tracking opens up a variety of possibilities for VR. That includes higher-quality images, but also new forms of hands-free interaction in VR and accessibility options for those who don’t have the ability to use full motion controllers. Imagine being able to quickly open menus, search a library of titles or even the open web, and selecting objects in a virtual environment by just focusing your line of sight. HTC is showcasing eye-based controls with a Major League Baseball app called MLB Home Run Derby VR, which is launching in 2019.

HTC previously offered a kit that would add eye tracking to the original Vive. (Other VR devices have also featured it, including the more niche Fove headset.) This new headset takes it a step closer to becoming a core headset feature, rather than a specialized option. But it’s still not a huge step — because the Vive Pro is an expensive product designed for professionals, with the headset alone currently selling for $799. That’s in contrast with the more mass-market-oriented HTC Vive Cosmos, which was also announced at CES today.