You have no doubt heard of eye tracking, but most likely in an analytics context. Companies like GazeHub and EyeQuant offer eye tracking as a component to website analytics. However, Tobii offers eye tracking in two contexts that are incredibly unique: “Gaze Interaction,” and “Assistive Technology Devices & Solutions.”1
Assistive Technology Devices & Solutions
The Assistive Technology Devices & Solutions branch of Tobii focuses on developing products for those individuals who suffer from speech and mobility impairing diseases such as ALS and Cerebral Palsy. By using Tobii devices, these individuals are able to communicate in ways never before imagined. Tobii offers an overview of their mission and assistive technology products:
Our communication devices help thousands of people around the world to overcome their impairments and to communicate in a way that was not possible before. People can use our solutions to develop their language skills and communication capacity from a very basic level to a level that is almost on par with people who have no communication restraints.
Using only their eyes, our market leading eye-controlled devices give them the potential to write novels, design web pages, speak through a synthesized voice, stay in touch with family and friends, use the internet, and much more.2
Although there are many possibilities for Gaze Interaction – zoom where you look, text scrolling as you read, etc. – perhaps the most exciting is its incorporation into gaming. There are some truly wild possibilities. Here is some of what Tobii is working on in the gaming space:
Richer, more immersive game scenarios
Games can also respond to the player in ways that were not possible before. Characters’ behavior is influenced by eye contact just like in real life. A shy person might look away. Or you might find that staring too long at a beautiful woman makes her husband angry. You move around in a more natural way. Hide. Be seen. Look around corners. Aim your flashlight or weapon where you look. Then use the regular controls to shoot.3
Wild stuff. To even further illustrate the possibilities, the company goes on to list a few things that they would love to see people develop with their technology:
- You’re a detective at a murder scene with different suspects. They all look cool initially, but their different reactions to your gaze make it clear who is guilty.
- Fly and shoot down enemies using traditional controls. Add eye-controlled missiles that instantly lock on to the enemy plane you’re looking at.
- Have you ever tried to trick a goalie in real life? The eyes often give you away – they will in games too.
- When the other character senses you are looking at his dagger, what will his next move be?
- Moving objects with your eyes is a truly magical sensation. It feels like moving them with your mind.
- You’ll have the coolest super powers you ever imagined.
- You’re in a zombie game and dead bodies come alive when you look at them. 4
We had a chance to stop by the Tobii booth at SXSWEdu. The below interview focuses mainly on the Assistive Technology aspects of Tobii, but it provides a good look into what is possible with the technology: