Stockholm-based Tobii is a 22-year-old company that today is the absolute world leader in eye tracking, which after helping Sony with eye tracking in PlayStation VR2, their name is more visible than usual. This led us at Gamereactor to call gaming expert Thomas Papa to learn more about how the partnership came about and how they see the gaming world in 2023 in general.
Gamereactor: Tell us about yourself and about Tobii.
Dad: My name is Thomas Papa, gaming expert here at Tobii, founded in 2001, and I work with implementation in various games and how our technology can enhance and improve the gaming experience. We are currently 600 employees spread across 13 offices around the world and we currently have the world’s largest patent library in our field with over 750 international patents related to eye tracking. We provide our technology to various industries such as research, education, healthcare, automotive and gaming. The Gaming Division here at Tobii is the smallest of our various divisions and currently consists of 25 people, but our products are currently supported by over 170 games and since 2014 this part of our business has grown every year.
What do you think is most important about the type of eye tracking you are developing?
Immersion. Immersion is the key to everything here, and in my opinion there are plenty of games today where our technology can make you part of the game itself or the game world in a way that is hard to describe before you actually test it. Our technology makes it possible in many ways for the game to know about you as a player, and being able to control the game camera with your eye movements or your head movements, for example, can obviously make a big difference to immersion.
We tested The Division 2 with Tobii Eye Tracking and it works very well.
Exactly. In that game, we have support for a feature called “Cover at Gaze,” which means the player takes cover behind an object he is looking at, and while it may sound imprecise and random, it is the exact opposite. It simplifies gameplay, makes it more intuitive and improves immersion. In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, for example, we have a system where you can loot boxes by looking at them, also something players really appreciate. In F1 22, we have a system that makes the in-game interface of the game invisible to improve the immersion and realism of the game, but visible if you look where else it is located. In Star Citizen, we have a system where you choose your targets in space combat depending on where you look, and so on.
What about the world of sim racing, racing and flying?
We are also present and strong there and are currently striving to expand and improve our support for various racing titles, including Assetto Corsa. We are currently working with Alpine’s esports team to give their drivers better options for positioning their car for each corner and an evaluation tool that allows their esports coaches to use the eye-tracking functionality to see if their drivers are looking at the right things during actual driving. What we have found is that experienced professional drivers look at the apex and certain markings or visual cues to confirm what they have already figured out or know, while uninitiated drivers use the same type of information to make certain specific choices. Both audiences can obviously benefit greatly from Tobii’s technology.
Here at Gamereactor we have been tracking your progress in this subgenre and since we have a dedicated sim racing room with a full-size motion rig, we want to try head tracking to make our rig’s movements more consistent with the in-game graphics.
Absolutely, it’s also one of those details that I think can improve realism and immersion and we’ll help you with that, of course.
When it comes to PS VR2, your technology is really crucial to how good that headset is and how well the foveated rendering works. What happened when you were asked by Sony to be part of PS VR2 production?
As I said, we have 13 offices in different parts of the world, one of which is in Japan, and this is where Sony turned to early in the process of PS VR2 and it feels super fun for us to be part of that product.