When it works correctly, Tobii's eye-tracking technology seems like something straight out of a near-future science fiction movie. So far, the company's EyeX peripherals have mostly been put to use translating eye movements into input for games and VR applications. The company has now teamed with Microsoft to add native support for eye-tracking devices to Windows 10. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced at the company's most recent hackathon that an eye-tracking technology called Eye Control will be integrated into the operating system, in order to make PCs more accessible to people unable to use a mouse and keyboard.
Eye Control allows users to control the mouse pointer and an on-screen keyboard through eye movement. The keyboard works similarly to a gesture keyboard on a smartphone: a long pause on a letter marks the beginning of a word, and shorter pauses equate to additional letters. Tobii's 4C is the only compatible device for the time being, but additional models will be added in the future.
The seeds for the collaboration between Microsoft and Tobii were planted in 2014 when former NFL safety and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease) sufferer Steve Gleason challenged employees at Microsoft's first hackathon to use technology to aid with day-to-day challenges presented by his disease. The first result was an application that allowed Gleason to control his motorized wheelchair using an eye-tracking device in conjunction with a Microsoft Surface tablet.
Eye Control is currently being tested through Microsoft's publicly-available Windows Insider Program. Tobii's 4C eye-tracking peripheral is available now for $150. We haven't been blown away by Tobii's products in past reviews, but given the debilitating effects of ALS and similar diseases, any method of communication is likely welcomed by sufferers of the disease.
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