Can you imagine what it would be like to control the cursor on your computer with just your eyes instead of having to remove a hand from your keyboard to move it with a mouse or trackpad? While a form of this technology has been available for disabled computer users for quite some time, it has required a headpiece that is too awkward and expensive for the consumer market.
Now, however, Tobii Technology has partnered with Lenovo to develop a prototype laptop cursor control interface that uses an eye-tracking system that the company claims is the first step toward offering the technology in the mass market.
Tobii Technology founder and CTO John Elvesjö displayed the eye-tracking Lenovo laptop at CeBIT 2011, and spoke with PC Pro about how the technology works.
The device built into the laptop is able to “watch” where the users eyes look and tracks the amount of time they are focused on a particular spot.
“It works very much like a Kinect for your eyes,” said Elvesjö. “As long as you’re roughly in front of your computer, the screen will actually know your exact gaze point all of the time,” he said. “It works like a touchscreen, but it feels your gaze point.”
The eye-tracking system not only moves the cursor, but also allows the user to “click” by gazing at an object, such as a folder, on the screen and pressing a key on the keyboard.
“Pointing with your eyes is something you do all the time,” Elvesjö added. “If you want to click a folder on your desktop, the first thing you do is search with your gaze to find this folder.”
Other functions of the eye-tracking device include offering synonyms and translations to help the user understand things they are reading on the screen, as well as scrolling down automatically when the user’s eyes reach the end of text displayed on their screen.
Elvesjö claims that the technology has “matured” enough that computer and gaming manufacturers are beginning to seriously look at incorporating it into mainstream consumer products. His company still has some work to do to lower the price and make the option more feasible, he admits.
The uses of this type of technology will not only be great for those with repetitive injuries like carpel tunnel syndrome, but could also work to boost the productivity of workers who do a great deal of data entry. It also has the potential for making PC gaming cool again. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing this eye-tracking technology in action once it arrives.