UK startup develops 'wafer thin' virtual reality tracking sensors for headsets

A UK based startup that’s only been around for under a year has developed a tech that tracks facial expressions in virtual reality devices.

Emteq, based in Brighton, uses artificial intelligence  (AI) and tiny sensors to read the electrical signals generated by muscle movement.

This in turn allows someone’s digital avatar, for example, to respond to the changes, without the need for face-tracking cameras.

The tech - or Faceteq, as the company’s calling it - is being developed with an Oculus software developer kit but has ambitions to be embedded into all virtual reality devices. It uses a range of biometric sensor techniques including electromyography (EMG), electrooculography (EOG), heart rate and more in the faceplate ofvirtual reality headsets, which track the electrical current generated in the movement of facial muscles.

A spokesperson for the company told VR Tech that it’s wafer thin and can be embedded into the face plates or foam parts of virtual reality devices themselves, so don’t add to the bulk or surface area of a headset.

“When you are wearing this and change your facial expression, the sensors turn this into data and replicate this data on your digital avatar. Facial tracking is a big focus of development for VR devices, and a lot of systems use cameras which look bulky and weigh a device down. These also can’t track what’s going on beneath the faceplate,” he said.

Developing new tech

Emteq has received quite a bit of funding from various bodies including Innovate UK, private investors and research grants - nearly £1.5m to be exact - so it’s serious business.

It’s now developed a prototype of its tech and is ready to take it to the next level, with its sights set on various markets including gaming, marketing, social media and healthcare.

The company is even working with Nottingham Trent University to  develop “smart specs” that will be used in the rehabilitation of patients that have lost control of their facial muscles after suffering a facial palsy or a stroke.

Under the project, Facial Remote Activity Monitoring Eyewear (F.R.A.M.E.), Emteq’s technology works with a smartphone app, to create personalised rehabilitation programmes.

“The last thing someone wants to do when they have had a stroke is look in the mirror as they can recognise the problem they have which can be quite dispiriting. With this, it gives them an exercise regime without having to look in the mirror all the time,” the spokesperson told VR Tech.

While the tech is still in beta mode, you can pre-order if interested, according to its website.

 

 

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