Your next laptop probably won't come with built-in eye tracking, but this kind of PC control isn't too far from hitting the mainstream. Tobii Technology has just unveiled its new EyeX Controller and engine, a $195 kit that will help developers create intuitive apps for Windows devices that can be controlled with a glance.
The Tobii EyeX engine is said to help standardize eye-tracking integration across devices-- meaning the technology is getting closer to becoming integrated into consumer-level gadgets. Tobii’s EyeX Developer Kit, which includes the next-gen EyeX controller, accompanying engine and SDK, is now available for preorder and will ship to developers this March.
The EyeX controller is Tobii’s successor to the Rex-- a similar eye tracker designed for use with computers that debuted at CES 2013. The company says that its new EyeX engine comes with a set of predefined user interactions out of the box, allowing developers to build on the eye tracker’s existing functionality.
The EyeX engine also takes care of the framework around applications, which includes functions such as calibrations and screen configurations. This means that developers can integrate eye-tracking technology more smoothly into their apps, making it naturally fit with current gestures such as clicking and scrolling.
Perceptual computing devices such as the Rex and EyeX aren’t meant to replace your mouse and keyboard, but would instead complement the experience. Tobii is experimenting with applications for its Gaze Interaction software that utilize this idea. For instance, one prototype game we played using the Rex involved staring at characters involved in a crime. The guilty character would react the longer you lock your gaze, while the innocent characters continued to act natural. Another first-person perspective game uses your gaze as a flashlight, allowing you to pan around your environment naturally as you move your character with the mouse or keyboard.
In a more practical scenario, we also used Tobii’s Rex to navigate Windows 8's interface and browse the Web hands-free. We simply looked at the link we wanted to select and then pressed the click button on our trackpad rather than having to move the cursor over the designated item.
The announcement marks one of several advancements Tobii has made over the past few months. This summer the company unveiled the world’s first Ultrabook prototype with built-in eye tracking technology. Tobii has also been showcasing its EyeMobile tracker for Windows 8 tablets, which is aimed at allowing those with disabilities interact with slates completely hands free.
While the technology is impressive, we experienced a few hiccups during our hands-on experience. There were some instances in which the eye tracker interpreted our gaze incorrectly and wouldn't open the app we were looking at. Nevertheless, we're excited to see where Tobii and developers take the EyeX platform.