March 1, 2011

Tobii Unveils Eye-Tracking Laptops

A Swedish tech firm has unveiled revolutionary new laptop technology that can track a person's eyes and determine what part of the screen he or she is looking at, according to a Tuesday article by AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson.

The eye-tracking cameras were developed by Tobii Technology of Stockholm, a company founded in 2001 that specializes in similar technology for researchers and the disabled, according to Svensson. The devices have been fitted to 20 laptops manufactured by Lenovo, which will be distributed Tuesday at the CeBIT technology trade show in Hanover, Germany.

Currently, Svensson notes that the computers, which feature the eye-tracking camera in a special "hump" on the cover of the device, are "about twice as thick as a regular laptop," but representatives from the company told the AP reporter that commercial versions of the laptop "can be slimmed and are perhaps two years away."

Possible uses for the device, according to Svensson, include reading and gaming.

"It tracks your gaze and figures out where you're looking on the screen," he said. "That means, among other things, that you can play a game where you burn up incoming asteroids with a laser that hits where you look."

"In another demonstration this week, the computer scrolled a text on the screen in response to eye movements, sensing when the reader reached the end of the visible text," Svensson added. "In the future, a laptop like this could make the mouse cursor appear where you're looking, or make a game character maintain eye contact with you."

Reportedly, the device operates by using a pair of invisible, infrared light beams, as well as a pair of hidden cameras. The beams reflect off your eyeballs, and the cameras track their position.

Barbara Barclay, general manager of Tobii North America, told the AP that the company views it not as a replacement for current input devices such as a mouse or a keyboard, but rather as a way to complement those things to make computer use faster and more efficient.

"More than anything else, the Tobii laptop prototype is proof that our eye tracking technology is mature enough to be used in standard computer interfaces," Tobii CEO Henrik Eskilsson said in a statement. "To reach a state where the technology is part of the average computer, we need to make it smaller and cheaper. We believe that this can be realized in a couple of years by partnering with the right manufacturer."

"We anticipate that people will be extremely excited to be able to control their computer with their eyes," added Barclay. "But what we find most exciting are the opportunities that eye control as part of natural user interfaces offer consumer electronics manufacturers in a range of product categories. We look forward to working with our partners to find many exciting ways to share and integrate this technology to advance their work."


Image Caption: In collaboration with Lenovo, Tobii Technology has developed the world's first eye-controlled laptop, using eye tracking technology from Tobii. The laptop is a fully functional conceptual prototype and an important breakthrough for Tobii in bringing eye tracking to consumer products. In this image, Henrik Eskilsson, the CEO of Tobii Technology, uses the eye gaze to control the computer. (CC BY 3.0)


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