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Add Eye-Tracking Hardware to a Valve Index VR Headset

Do you own a Valve Index VR headset and wish it had eye-tracking capabilities like the Apple Vision Pro?

Virtual reality technology has advanced rapidly in recent years and today’s headsets are pretty amazing. The Valve Index is among the best-rated VR headsets on the market thanks to its high-quality display and great controller tracking. But like every other headset on the market — with the very notable exception of the Apple Vision Pro — the Valve Index lacks the hardware necessary to track the user’s eyes and that limits functionality. In an attempt to increase the capability of the Valve Index, Physics-Dude developed his own eye-tracking system mounting hardware for the headset.

All modern VR headsets track head movement, which is necessary to move the PoV (point-of-view) camera within the virtual environment. But we move our eyes independently of our heads and that is a problem in VR. Without a way to track eye movement, the headset doesn’t know what we’re actually looking at. With eye-tracking hardware, like in the Apple Vision Pro, the headset can use eye movement to determine the focus point and even to improve user interfaces by letting people “select” elements by looking at them.

To give the Valve Index the ability to track a user’s eyes, Physics-Dude had to add some hardware inside the headset. That includes two infrared cameras (no IR-blocking filters installed) and array of infrared emitter LEDs. They are mounted on 3D-printed frames in such a way that they’re as unobtrusive as possible, but are still able to get a clear view of the user’s eyeballs.

Flat ribbon cables run from those cameras to the outside of the Valve Index headset where they connect to the control module. That contains two Seeed Studio XIAO ESP32 development boards (once for each camera) and the custom ETVR (EyetrackVR) v4 PCB. The 3D-printed module frame lets it attach to the detachable front panel of the headset.

With the hardware installed, users can take advantage of EyetrackVR software. That runs on the user’s PC and receives data from the two ESP32 microcontrollers via Wi-Fi. That data can then be used with VR games and software. EyetrackVR is meant mostly for social VR games to control user avatar eyes, but there is a lot more it can do — users may just need to figure out the specifics on their own.

There are also 3D-printable EyetrackVR mounts available for other VR headsets, including the Meta Quest 2, Vive Pro 2, and more.


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