“X Mask” captures facial expressions for better VR imitations


Image: Dolami Inc.

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Instead of cameras, the “X-Mask” uses special sensors embedded in elastic material to capture facial expressions and display them in VR.

VR enthusiasts go to great lengths to get the best tracking possible: in addition to Vive and Tundra arm and leg trackers, some users wear haptic gloves like the ContactGlove to closely mimic their avatar’s movements .

Facial recognition, like on the Meta Quest Pro or Vive Facial Tracker, usually works on camera tracking. That could soon change: San Francisco-based startup Dolami is currently working on the “X Mask” for facial expression recognition.

Face tracking via mask

Developed with support from Osaka University, the mask is meant to replicate facial movements with more 95% accuracy with 200 millisecond latency. This latency would, for example, be far too high for a VR shooter. However, to communicate emotions in a social app like VRChat, it should be enough for facial expressions to reach the other person within a reasonable amount of time with voice and hand gestures.

A picture of X Mask

The X-Mask offers a face tracking alternative to camera-based systems. | Image: Dolami Inc.

The sensors are integrated into the mask. They have no direct contact with the skin and therefore do not cause skin irritation, according to the manufacturer. The start-up does not disclose detailed technical information on the exact functioning of the mask. Electrodes are probably used, as in similar projects from the early days of virtual reality.

At $90, the X-Mask is comparable in price to HTC’s Focus 3 Facial Tracker for around $100. The latter is considerably lighter at around 11 grams than the mask at 127.6 grams.

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Beginning of sales in Japan and the United States

The X-Mask is slated to launch initially in Japan and the US in 2023. Dolami has already established a base in San Francisco for US distribution. Possible plans for the European launch are not yet known. Investors include CyberAgentCapital, East Ventures and F Ventures.

In Japan in particular, there is interest outside of VR for accurate, affordable, and simple tracking technologies, such as recording VTube streams with avatars of virtual stars. In November, for example, Sony announced the low-cost “Mocopi” body tracker for VRChat and Meta Quest 2, which uses particularly discreet sensors.

Sources: Dolami Inc., official website


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