Behind the lens of AR: Eye-tracking in medtech

David Goldman, VP of marketing at Lumus explains why he believes that AR glasses will be a major biometric necessity in the near future.

Can you explain how eye tracking technology works within AR glasses?

In AR glasses, eye tracking technology utilises infrared light sources and cameras to continuously monitor the movement and position of the wearer’s eyes. This hardware combination captures the positions of the pupil and corneal reflections, allowing the system to determine where the wearer is looking. A real-time processing unit in the AR glasses calculates the wearer’s gaze point, which is then used for a range of interactions within the AR environment, like selecting objects, navigating menus, and adjusting the focus of virtual elements to match the wearer’s gaze. Reflective waveguide technology, which uses mirrors to reflect light and images towards the wearer’s eye, is uniquely suited for developing eye tracking solutions given its ability to reduce the complexity of the hardware that is needed.

The ability for AR glasses to track eye movements significantly enhances the experience for wearers by making interactions more realistic and immersive. Ultimately, eye tracking capabilities will also lead to increased healthtech capabilities and personal health data measurements. 

Do you foresee eye tracking capabilities becoming a standard feature in consumer-ready AR glasses, or will it remain a premium feature for certain applications?

Though eye tracking capabilities in AR glasses were once considered a premium feature, the technology is poised for potential integration into mainstream consumer-ready models. This shift is primarily motivated by the desire to provide a more intuitive, immersive user experience for wearers. However, the pace and extent of widespread adoption will hinge on the rate of technological advancements and evolving consumer preferences in the ever-changing AR space.

Factors contributing to this trend include the reduction in the cost of eye tracking components, rising consumer expectations for seamless interactions with AR content, and the growing interest of developers in creating captivating, immersive AR experiences. Another contributing factor is the expanded range of eye tracking applications beyond just gaming and professional use, most notably in the healthtech industry.

How do you anticipate near-to-eye display eye tracking will impact the healthtech and AR industries in particular? 

Near-to-eye display eye tracking holds significant potential for the healthtech and AR industries. For personal health purposes, eye tracking via AR glasses can be used to collect in-depth health data without any invasive testing or procedures. For instance, eye tracking AR capabilities can monitor the wearer’s pupil size, blink rate, and eye patterns to detect abnormalities and diagnose many diseases.

In AR, it can be used to track where the wearer is looking in the physical and virtual world and can dynamically adjust the environment to match the wearer’s gaze. For example, if the wearer is looking at text, the text can be highlighted or magnified. By tracking the wearer’s gaze, eye tracking technology can also enable wearers to control virtual objects by, for example, looking at a virtual button to select it or looking at a virtual object to interact with it, making these interactions more natural and intuitive. This is called gaze tracking, and companies like Microsoft and Apple have integrated it into their mixed reality headsets.

What health data can be collected via eye tracking technology, and what diseases/ infections may be mitigated as a result? 

Eye tracking technology through AR glasses can be useful in collecting data related to eye movements, gaze direction, and pupillary response. This data may then assist in diagnosing various conditions, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and even certain neurological disorders. For example, people with glaucoma may have difficulty tracking moving objects with their eyes, which can be detected through AR glasses.

Similarly, pupil size and eye blink rate can be used to determine stress levels, attention, and fatigue – for example, pupils tend to dilate when people are stressed or tired, and people tend to blink more often when fatigued. 

What other healthcare applications for augmented reality technology are you excited about? Are there any use cases you can share? 

In addition to the aforementioned applications, AR eye tracking can be a valuable tool for detecting concussions and neurological disorders. For concussion detection, it compares post-incident data to detect any significant deviations from the baseline of normal eye tracking data.

AR eye tracking can also serve as a screening tool for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease by continuously monitoring a person’s pupils and eye movement patterns. The technology looks for irregularities in eye movements, such as decreased smooth pursuit – when the eye remains steadily fixated on a moving object – or saccades – rapid eye movements that shift the gaze from one point to another – and pupillary responses compared to the baseline. While AR eye tracking provides valuable insights into potential neurological symptoms, however, it should be stressed that it is not a diagnostic tool, but rather a means for early detection and continuous monitoring.


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