January 7, 2013
CES 2013: Tobii Introduces New Eye-Tracking Technology
Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
While the tablet PC may be slowly rendering the physical keyboard and mouse a thing of the past, touch-based devices could be replaced by those that are controlled by eyeballs. On Monday Tobii offered a peek at its Windows 8 eye-controller at the 2013 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
This, of course, isn´t the first time this eye-controlling technology has attracted eyeballs. The company showed off its eyeball-tracking technology at last year´s CES, but this year the company announced it won´t just be for looking at, but rather could soon be technology that could be used for looking with. Tobii announced a 5,000 unit production run of a USB-enabled bar that can be placed at the bottom of any monitor of any Windows PC.
The Tobii REX can connect to any computer via USB and actually allows the computer to track the user´s gaze, which in turn can be used as a visual control interface. If this sounds a bit complicated, it should be noted that the system can´t actually replace a mouse and keyboard, but rather would be a complimentary controller with the interface.
This technology also doesn´t appear to be the most user intuitive right out of the box, and according to NBCnews.com, it does have a rather laborious calibration process. The process requires remapping a key on a keyboard or using the scroll wheel. Once this is accomplished, however, users can select emails from lists, scroll through websites with reasonable accuracy and even select areas on a map to zoom in and zoom out.
While currently this is being touted as add-on technology, Tobii´s long term outlook appears to see eye-tracking technology built directly into devices such as laptops, tablets and other devices. How soon this will come about, however, has yet to be seen, as Tobii still needs to get REX into developers´ hands and then encourage them to build eye-tracking friendly apps.
Where Tobii´s technology could also gain momentum is in integration with older computers that are upgraded to Windows 8, but lack a touch screen.
Tobii CEO Henrik Eskilsson told CNET that this technology could possibly help people navigate better on touch screen devices as well.
Unlike touch screens, the Tobii REX could also better replicate the functionality of the mouse, something that a mere touch can´t quite do. By design, a mouse can allow for at least two levels of interaction: a mouse-over with the cursor and then the actual click. This multi-level of usability remains elusive with touch screens and only truly offers the functionality when an added device such as a stylus is added to the mix.
Tobii could get around that problem by providing a button that can be depressed while looking at the screen, offering those two levels of interaction.
Tobii isn´t alone in trying to let the “eyes” have it. Lenovo is also reportedly working on new technology, although at present its technology is only tracking fingers. This capability is being added to Yoga laptops.
This technology could give new meaning to the concept of tracking eyeballs.