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Windows 8 Meets Eye-Tracking At CES 2012

Tobii eye-tracking technology lets you control certain PC or tablet tasks with your eyes, not your hands.

CES 2012: Elegant Gadgets Abound
CES 2012: Elegant Gadgets Abound
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At CES 2012, Fujitsu introduced an Android tablet that accepts hand gestures. Voice input has also gone mainstream. And now Tobii is attempting to bring eye-tracking into the fold, demonstrating its technology on laptops and arcade games.

Tobii makes a device with infrared lights and sensors. The lights illuminate the user's eyes, creating a reflection on the surface and on the back of the retina, and then the sensors take rapid images of the eyes to build a 3-D model of them. Company representatives said that this process can get the eye tracking within one millimeter of precision--that is, it can pretty much track the user's eyes exactly.

It's not easy to pick up all of the nuances from the demonstration in the video embedded below, but the idea is that with a combination of a laptop's touchpad and your eyes, you can point and select items in Windows 8 (when it's available), and even expand or zoom in on items--say an image on the Web.

[ Find out what to expect at CES. Read CES 2012 Preview: 16 Hot Gadgets. ]

The technology also works with other versions of Windows; one of our BYTE reviewers took Tobii's PCEye tracking technology for a spin recently, and found it relatively easy to set up and use. In fact, our reviewer combined PCEye with speech recognition technology and used his laptop hands free.

There are a variety of ways to interact with applications, including the use of a sustained blink to create a selection action, for example.

The target market is primarily users who are disabled, although company representatives talked about the use case for surgeons, who may want to click and zoom while their hands are otherwise occupied. Tobii GM Barbara Barclay said that eye tracking has been used for research on things like autism and attention deficit disorder.

The Tobii system runs several thousand dollars, but the company is hoping for a bit more mass appeal, and eventually sees its technology being built into standard laptops, cars, and medical devices.

Ready to catch the Metro? Windows 8 is a major shift, with features borrowed from desktop gadgets and mobile devices, and it brings a slew of new paradigms for developers. Our report, IT Pro Impact: Windows Developer Road Map, shows you what you need to know. (Free registration required.)

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