Waterloo’s AdHawk Eye Tracker Sees $4.6 Million Investment

Kitchener-Waterloo’s AdHawk Microsystems just received a multi-million dollar injection from Intel Capital.

AdHawk announced today that it has raised a $4.6 million USD Series A funding that will bring its microscopic eye-tracking technology to virtual reality and augmented reality headsets.

Intel Capital led the Series A investment round, with participation from Brightspark Ventures as well as AdHawk’s three founders.

The company is behind an advanced eye tracking device that uses an infrared scan to measure the eye’s position—3,000 times per second. The technology can be harnessed to make current VR/AR devices on the market more responsive, efficient and comfortable, ultimately improving the already highly immersive experiences.

Current headsets rely on cameras to track where a wearer is looking, processing hundreds of images per second to keep pace with the cornea’s rapid movements. That kind of technology requires these headsets to be tethered to a computer and power source.

AdHawk developed a coin-battery powered solution that can replace these cameras with sensor packages that are smaller than a grain of rice. The ultra-compact AdHawk system can be embedded directly into AR/VR headsets and glasses, tracking eyes without being connected to a power supply.

AdHawk CEO and co-founder Dr. Neil Sarkar is behind award-winning microsystems research at the University of Waterloo. He said his company’s tiny eye tracker has the potential to set a new standard for VR/AR user experience.

“Creating a sense of total immersion, through an untethered, responsive and unobtrusive headset, is the ultimate goal of the VR/AR world,” Dr. Sarkar said. “We believe our technology will go a long way to enabling headset makers to deliver that experience to their users.”

The system captures thousands of datapoints per second and can even predict where a user is going to look next, allowing game designers to enhance the element of surprise.

The technology has ushered in not only new possibilities for improved gaming experiences but the healthcare industry too. AdHawk is being used to measure the smallest movements in the eye, information that can lead to the early detection of diseases like Parkinson’s.

Intel’s investment will power AdHawk to develop additional sensor technologies including a low-power, ultra-precise gesture sensor and a super-resolution point-cloud-based 3D sensing solution.