There are a lot of ways to interact with a computer. You can use a keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, voice controls, or motion controls. Or you can just look at it… Tobii is developing eye-tracking hardware and software that lets you move a mouse cursor, select items, zoom, or scroll using your eyes.
For instance, say you want to launch an app. Instead of moving your mouse cursor to the appropriate part of the screen and clicking a tile or icon, just glance at the icon you want to open and tap a button on the keyboard.
Reading a webpage or an eBook? Tobii’s system can track your eye-movements and automatically scroll up or down when you move your eyes to the top or bottom of the page.
In a demo at CES, Tobii is also showing how you can use the system to zoom in on a map — just glance at the point in the map that you want to zoom in on and scroll your mouse wheel. You don’t have to move the mouse, just the wheel… although this demo was a little less impressive than the others. I found it wasn’t entirely accurate — and it’s not all that useful either. If you have to use the mouse anyway, you might as well click it.
On the other hand, there’s a good reason you currently need a mouse or keyboard when using this sort of eye-tracking system. If you could control every action with just your eyes, you might accidentally close a program or do something else disastrous when you just meant to glance aside.
At this point the Tobii Gaze system is still in the early stages. The company offers a development kit for about $1000 and plans to bring a commercial product to market much later this year for an undisclosed price.
For the most part the solution helps you do things that were already pretty simple to do without eye-tracking hardware and software. But as the technology progresses, I suspect we’ll see new apps designed specifically to work with eye-tracking systems like this.
Tobii is also showing off a system working with a laptop computer, but it will probably be a long time before we see this sort of technology in tablets or smartphones.