Silicon Valley startup launches innovative low-cost sensor for virtual reality

The most popular virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets are currently based around “outside-in” technology (such as that of Oculus Rift and HTC Vive), which involves sensors in a room providing information to the device on detection of the headset. A new offering from US company Eonite approaches the problem from the other direction – “inside-out”, having just revealed it’s own headset offering that senses it’s surroundings and hence allows tracking of the headset’s position relative to its environment. The startup, based in Palo Alto, CA, has received seed capital to the tune of $5.25m from a host of investors. Among those are well-known firms such as CLI Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Rising Tide, The VR Fund, Presence Capital, and Signia Venture Partners.

Eonite’s offering (the Vantage Head Tracker) provides promising functionality. Users can use the headset freely as it is lightweight and does not restrict movement. It functions with a light three dimensional low-cost sensor, which is cheaper than the setup of other offerings which use costly external components.(which can comprise up to a third of the cost of other devices). It provides a field of vision narrower than its competitors, but reviews of the device have been positive.

Eonite co-founder Anna Petrovskaya explained the early beginnings of the concept: “When I began working on computer perception in 2004 with Peter (Varak), we recognized it would impact a wide range of artificial intelligence industries and enable tremendous growth in consumer experiences. Eonite enables the fourth wave of computing — spatial interfaces like VR/AR — to gain widespread adoption. Computers perceiving the real world like the human eye – that’s what it takes for these experiences to feel ‘real’ enough for common usage, and that’s the impact we’re enabling at Eonite.” She founded the company at the end of 2015 with Peter Varak with whom she had researched the topic, and Youssri Helmy.

Helmy continued: “It’s a fundamental technology. Our founders come from a robotics background, and our platform is prepared for that. Outside-in was a great way to get the industry started. But now we have to evolve the industry in a more consumer-friendly direction.”

Eonite’s offering and technology have many unique features. The user can visualise and map the layout of their home making it possible to use the technology without having to rearrange a room for it. It also safely alerts you to moving and stationary objects that could interfere or be a hazard. It can be integrated with computers and displays and in the future will integrate with more appliances.

The company are planning to release a product based on the software this year, according to Helmy. He described the unique strengths of the system lie in its design; the computing, algorithms and operating system. This setup allows low energy usage and a very high level of precision and extremely fast response time. Its graphical processing requirements can be fulfilled by the processing power of a tablet GPU, leaving more resources for the device it is installed on to process other tasks.

The development kit accompanying the head tracker allows third parties (of which there are a select number currently) to build on the offering. The kit (the Eonite Reality Insight Software Development Kit) can also allow development on the popular Unity games engine. This can enable third parties to develop solutions for a range of industries. As one of their investors, Rick Thompson of Signia Venture Partners, concluded: “They’ve really nailed the inside-out tracking.” Many innovative applications for the system from partners are expected, leveraging 3D simultaneous localization and mapping (3D SLAM) enabled by the device. These applications will take advantage of the applications extensive ability to render rich virtual environments and visuals for the user at home.

More information can be found at: Eonite.

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