Since its founding, 7invensun has focused on the medical sector and impacted the lives of many who have mobility issues. But now, the company hopes to ride on a wave and conquer the VR market next.
The Beijing-based startup, which is backed by Qualcomm and ZTE, is one of the first technology makers in China that focuses on eye-tracking and eye movement control technologies.
These technologies are an integral factor in improving one’s overall experience of VR.
David Peng, the co-founder and vice president of 7invensun, told AllChinaTech that VR is top priority for the company even though this sector is only in its initial stages.
“VR wearable products (eye-wear) are going to be the next big thing in the market,” said Peng.
What is eye-tracking technology? Essentially, it is a sensor that allows a device to know exactly where a person is looking. Besides VR, this technology can also be used in other fields such as education and advertising, among others.
As the first company in China to own independent intellectual property rights for its eye tracking and eye movement control technologies, the company is continuing to grow.
Founded in February 2009, with a team of less than 10 people, the company was born from an idea of Huang Tongbing, its president, who used to research fighter jets.
Pilots are subjected to high pressure while inside the plane and their movements become restricted. Therefore, they rely heavily on eye movement to execute controls through the helmet that they wear.
Huang wanted to bring this niche technology that pilots use into everyday life to benefit more people, especially those who are disabled and need it the most.
The company started off by providing its eye tracking technology in assistive products designed for patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Over the years, it has improved the lives of thousands diagnosed with this muscular disease.
According to Peng, the company is expected to rake in millions of RMB in 2016 for the medical aspect of their business.
However, in the past two years, the company has begun to focus on partnerships and collaborations, aimed at outsourcing its eye tracking technology to other companies.
Peng said that the company is already in discussions with several major enterprises in the smartphone, VR and education industries. Two of these are Oculus and HTC, so far the best VR makers on the global market.
The company values global competition from rivals like Sweden-based Tobii and SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI), a German company with 20 years of experience with the technology.
Still, it’s challenging for Chinese companies to compete in the global market. Peng said that firms in China still have to play catch-up in the areas of manufacturing and technology, since many of them are reliant on foreign companies for help.
“Personally, I think that a company has to have a very strong R&D background and abilities in order to assemble and produce good products” he said.
“I think Chinese firms are able to produce excellent core technology, but they are weaker when it comes to building the final product.”
Previously, the company’s work on VR was more in the initial stages of R&D. However, it plans to ramp up its efforts and has already allocated 50 per cent of its annual budget and about 40 people, more than half of its employees, for this purpose.
The eye-tracking market is estimated to reach USD one billion by 2020, according to a report by MarketsandMarkets last year. Thus, the company’s decision is not a misguided one.
Peng also shared that 7invensun’s eye tracking technology is expected to bring in tens of millions of RMB in revenue for the company in 2016.
In the second half of this year, the company hopes to roll out a range of eye-tracking solutions at different prices to meet the varied needs of its clients. Currently, the company only has one premium eye-tracking solution for an undisclosed price.
Peng has high hopes for the company in the next five years. On top of advancing its eye tracking technology and making it one of the best globally, Peng hopes that 7invensun can make a name for itself in the VR industry.
Come December 2016, it might be possible for many of us to experience VR through 7invensun’s technology.