Eye-Tracking Technology: A Tobii Demonstration and Freescale’s Aspiration

In recent weeks, I've discussed Tobii's eye-tracking technology several times, both for its ability to monitor driver attention in vehicles, and to control next-generation operating systems' graphical user interfaces. As I mentioned last week, Tobii demonstrated its Gaze software for Windows 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show, and Engadget got a chance to take it for a hands-on (or should that be eyeballs-on?) test drive:

Here's a relevant excerpt from the Engadget report, the full version of which I commend to your attention:

As the first matter of business, we first needed to calibrate our eye movements with the sensor, a process that took a couple minutes to push through before we were ready to have at it. The prototype laptop is running an early build of Windows 8, so we navigated around the Metro interface, played a couple games, switched back and forth between tabs, zoomed in and out of screens and plenty more.

Eye-tracking technology hasn't been around for incredibly long, and it still has a ways to go. There were a few occasions — seen in the video below the break — in which we tried to hit a smaller button several times before finally finding success. Bugs aside, we got the hang of the interface pretty fast after a few minutes of getting accustomed to the concept of using our eyes as the cursor. That doesn't mean we were completely used to it by the time we left the booth, but we could see how eye-tracking can come in handy at times.

However, echoing the points I made in last week's writeup, eye tracking isn't a perfect panacea:

It wasn't all Mission: Impossible as we'd secretly hoped. Contrary to our original expectations, we discovered that using the trackpad was still an integral and necessary part of the full experience; it wasn't a "blink twice to click" type of interface. Tobii tells us that by still using the trackpad to click on the screen (minus dragging your finger around as the cursor), you still have a natural user experience, since you're quickly able to use your fingers to scroll or click and override the movement of your eyes if absolutely necessary.

Nonetheless, the Engadget reviewer remains enthusiastic about the technology's promise, noting "All in all, we were very impressed to see how far the technology has come so far, and as Tobii is still in the early stages of implementing eye-tracking into the latest laptops — CES is the company's first time showing it off in public, after all — we're incredibly excited to see how it looks once it's all polished up." And apparently EVA member Freescale agrees. On Monday, The Verge tipped me off that the company would be demonstrating "gaze tracking" at its CES booth, and a photo emailed to me yesterday by EVA founder Jeff Bier confirmed that this was indeed the case, done in partnership with CogniMem Technologies:

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