A brief optical interlude
After my frustration with the EyeX, I tried a couple strategies. To completely eliminate the glare from glasses, I did get a single pair of contacts in my prescription. I've worn glasses since I was two years old, and I'd never tried contacts before, so this step was a bigger deal to me than it may seem. Unfortunately, contacts were a dead end. I actually couldn't see much better with them in than with no corrective lenses in front of my eyes at all, and the EyeX didn't track any better with them in place. This outcome baffled my optometrist. Perhaps there's some undiagnosed condition to blame for this, but that's a mystery for me to figure out later. Maybe that's why I've never been able to see those darn 3D Magic Eye things.
Luckily, my optician was more helpful. He's known me since I was two, and he listened patiently as I rambled on about why I was there and what I wanted to accomplish. We settled on getting new lenses with Crizal Prevencia coating for my existing frames. My previous lenses were four years old, and had the regular Crizal coating from the time. Demands of this review aside, I'm sure I would have picked the Prevencia option with new lenses anyway, since it's so strongly recommended for heavy screen users. This coating is similar to Gunnar Optiks products but without the amber tint. Long story short, the EyeX worked somewhat better for me after I got my new lenses, but still not as well as it did for others. I decided this result was good enough and tried using the thing day-to-day.
Putting the EyeX to work
For non-gaming usage, I decided to take the EyeX to work. I thought my office environment would give its features the best real-world test I could offer, since my work PC uses a 23" flat screen. Generally speaking, the EyeX performed as advertised with this screen. I didn't find the tracker all that useful with my work computer, though. Even though the EyeX was able to track my eyes better on that screen, some of its more useful software features weren't available on my work-issued Windows 8.1 install.
I knew that the EyeX's Windows Hello integration wouldn't work on Windows 8.1, since it's only available on Windows 10. (Side note: Hello worked perfectly with my face and the EyeX, no matter what.) What I didn't expect was to miss out on Tobii features like Presence, which dims your screen if you leave your desk, or Application Switcher, which automatically makes the window you are looking at the active window. Another feature that performs touchpad gestures using eye movements only works with Synaptics touchpads. Those limitations seem artificial to me, but perhaps there's some underlying service or dependency that makes them Windows 10 exclusives.
With those functions out of the running, I could only test some pointer-related features called "Mouse Warp" and "Mouse Clone." Clone never felt natural, since I had to trigger it by pressing and holding a key. The tool spawns a second cursor at the point you're looking at on screen for as long as the hotkey is held down. While this feature does work, I just didn't see the application for it. Maybe it would make more sense if the EyeX software supported multiple monitors in the future, each with its own EyeX.
I thought I might like Mouse Warp at first. This feature lets you bump your mouse and have the cursor appear at the on-screen point where your eyes are focused. It was pretty neat to automagically have the cursor appear in close proximity to where I was looking without additional effort. When I began using Warp, I overshot everything I intended to click on, but I got a feel for the feature after a couple hours. To make this behavior more predictable, I would look somewhere, bump the mouse slightly, wait for the cursor to appear where I was looking, and then move it to complete my selection. That process was more fluid in action than it might sound.
I ended up turning off Mouse Warp after a couple of days, since more often than not, it ended up putting my cursor where I didn't want it. For example, when I read a webpage, I might leave my cursor up by the top of the browser window and toggle between a couple tabs without looking away from the page. With Mouse Warp turned on this wasn't possible. As soon as I moved my mouse, my cursor would show up in the middle of the page instead of the tab I wanted. Browsing image galleries and skipping around in YouTube videos presented the same problem.
Tobii seems to be aware of this issue. When you turn Warp on, you can set a slider for an inactive zone. With this zone on, if your eyes are within a certain distance from the cursor, the mouse won't warp when you move it. I tried setting this zone from its five-centimeter default all the way up to its 10cm maximum, but not only is that not enough radius to cover the distance from the center of a webpage to the browser's tab bar, it's also too wide to accommodate some of the warping you'd actually want your mouse to make.
Ultimately, my experience with the EyeX at work rewarded me with little functionality for all the trouble I'd gone through. I got excited when I discovered that Tobii had made a Chrome extension that allowed for auto-scrolling as a user reads a web page, but it turned out to be unsupported. That left me thinking: what exactly am I supposed to do with this thing? Oh, right...