OpenXR announces the first extension for eye tracking

  • by Denny Rönngren
  • 3 min

Tobii - OpenXR

Enabling cross-platform, cross-vendor built-in APIs for eye tracking technologies

This week, The Khronos® Group — an open consortium of industry-leading companies creating graphics and compute interoperability standards— announced multiple conformant implementations of OpenXR leveraging the OpenXR™ 1.0 Adopters Program. You can read more about this in the Khronos press release.

For several years Tobii has been part of the OpenXR working group that aims to simplify application development for XR devices. As a contributor to the OpenXR working group, Tobii has focused on driving the work to deliver the first extension to OpenXR for eye tracking, which is now included in this cross-platform, cross-vendor API.

In this post, I discuss the importance of open standards and how eye tracking as an OpenXR extension is a catalyst for innovation in the XR ecosystem.

If you’ve ever been part of a working group, developed a standard, or collaborated on a project requiring cross-domain or multi-stakeholder consensus, you’ll recognize the feeling of achievement when the project has been finalized.

Today, this feeling is more palpable than ever. We are very happy to see the first eye tracking specification being announced as part of the advanced UI categories of input modalities in OpenXR. This is of course a joint effort, and I am delighted that Tobii has been able to leverage our experience from years of eye tracking application development to bring this extension into the OpenXR working group.

For me, the most effective approach to technology development is rooted in open standards, such as Khronos and OpenXR. It prevents vendor lock-in, promotes innovation, and encourages healthy competition through open ecosystems. But what is perhaps most crucial for XR, is that open standards enable big tech and niche players to collaborate.

The tech world is mature enough to recognize the potential XR presents: a range of innovative devices with mass-market potential, enterprise capabilities, and application development opportunities. We’ve seen it before with PCs and mobiles. As the device market diversifies, the need for rapid mass-market uptake intensifies. One way for XR to ramp up adoption is through interoperability and open ecosystems.

OpenXR aims to maximize interoperability allowing XR stakeholders — hardware vendors, niche component suppliers, and application developers — to develop their products and solutions independently while maintaining compatibility, protecting investment and future-proofing devices and the ecosystem.

The importance of partnerships

Tobii has been a member of the Khronos OpenXR working group for several years. At SIGGRAPH 2019, during the launch of 1.0 spec of OpenXR, we committed to delivering eye tracking as an extension. Now, we have delivered on that promise. Our initial proposal for eye tracking APIs has gained acceptance from leading ecosystem partners and other device manufacturers.

Companies supporting Tobii - OpenXR

Microsoft has adopted support for our extension on its platform, and it is currently compatible with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 device — one of the first OpenXR-conformant headsets.

The new OpenXR eye tracking extension contributes to the XR ecosystem by ensuring compatibility across all OpenXR-conformant headsets. For us at Tobii, this is a massive step forward along the converging paths of interoperability.

Looking ahead, I plan to provide further updates over the next several months as we continue our work with OpenXR, and across the XR ecosystem.

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Written by

  • Tobii employee

    Denny Rönngren

    Developer, Tobii

    I am a developer at Tobii with focuses on scaling eye tracking and spatial computing for the consumer mass-market. It is a broad role, with lots of interesting challenges and collaborations, from defining shapes of APIs that game engines use, developer outreach, to researching into new novel use cases for eye tracking. Personally, I am very excited about the future of XR, and what significance eye tracking play for use cases such as lifelike avatars, foveated rendering and interactions where gaze can create more intuitive and accessible interfaces. I work closely with industry tech partners and developers to drive widespread adoption of eye tracking early on in XR and PC, and also represent Tobii in Khronos OpenXR working group. Feel free to connect with me.

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