Swedish eye-tracking company Tobii has announced plans to invest in “large scale initiatives” involving smartphones and virtual reality, and is seeking to raise SEK 400 million ($50 million) in a new rights issue of shares.
Founded in 2001, Tobii serves up tools that enables technology such as computers and smartphones to detect a user’s eye-orientation, thereby determining what they are looking at on-screen. Tobii’s smarts have been used by a number of big-name brands and is often used in the gaming realm, including machines produced by Acer and Alienware. Acer has actually launched three monitors with Tobii’s eye-tracking technology built in, and around 40 games have been brought to market that support the nascent eye-tracking tech, including Tom Clancy’s The Division, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and Watch Dogs 2.
Tobii had raised around $70 million in equity funding until it went public on the Stockholm Stock Exchange in April last year. Having priced its initial public offering (IPO) at SEK 25 ($2.8) per share, the company went on to hit a peak of around SEK 80 ($8.90) last month, and is currently sitting at around SEK 70 ($7.80) – almost three times its IPO price.
The company’s plans to raise a further $50 million are still subject to approval at a forthcoming extraordinary general meeting – if approved, the subscription period for the fresh rights issue will run from December 6 through December 20, 2016.
The company says that its ambition is to “make substantial investments in technology and market development” specifically for eye-tracking in virtual reality (VR) and smartphones, noting that the the demand for eye-tracking in such consumer markets has moved faster than it had originally expected.
“The interest for eye-tracking in various consumer applications has developed at a substantially more rapid pace than we anticipated at the time of the IPO in April 2015,” explained Tobii CEO Henrik Eskilsson. “At that point, we believed it would take longer time for eye-tracking to become current for use in smartphones and VR-headsets than what we see today. The capital raise of just above SEK 400 million that was conducted in connection to the listing is sufficient to complete the business plan we decided on then, but to create the conditions to take a leading position also within these new segments, we now need to further increase our efforts in market and technology development. We are convinced that the time is right to expand our investments and that there is good potential to create great value for our shareholders.”
The AR / VR industry is expected to hit $150 billion by 2020, and Tobii is looking to move fast and not be left behind as others in the space invest in, and develop, new eye-tracking technologies. Indeed, the timing of today’s announcement is notable, as it comes just two weeks after Google snapped up Silicon Valley-based eye-tracking company Eyefluence, a startup that had raised around $20 million in VC funding to build eye-tracking technology for augmented reality (AR) glasses and VR headsets. Other startups focusing, if you will, on building eye-tracking smarts for VR, include Facebook’s Oculus, while Japan-based Fove recently opened preorders for a VR headset that lets you play games by moving your eyes.
With $50 million more in its treasure chest, Tobii says that it wants more “financial flexibility” and may wish to carry out quick acquisitions. It also revealed that it has signed a deal with a major smartphone manufacturer that will integrate eye-tracking technology into one of its models, though further details were not divulged.