"The Tobii PCEye eye-tracking system is one of the most advanced technologies on the planet. Michael Doornbos of BYTE had the opportunity to test drive the system, describing it as "very easy" to use."
Yet another science fiction technology is finding its way into the real world .The Tobii PCEye wants to change everything, not just for those with physical disabilities, but for everyone. In the future, you will put away the mouse and use your eyes to tell your computer what to do.
The next generation of students graduating from technology colleges are creating all sorts of technologies to help the disabled. Microsoft's Kinect turns the entire body into a controller. Voice recognition lets you tell your computer what to do. Now, you can let your eyes do the talking.
The Tobii PCEye eye-tracking system is one of the most advanced technologies on the planet. Michael Doornbos of BYTE had the opportunity to test drive the system, describing it as "very easy" to use. The device he used mounts at the bottom of the computer screen and may require a little fiddling to position correctly. The company technology is already included in a laptop made by Lenovo with the PCEye permanently installed. It's still a little bulky for the average consumer, but the company expects to have that solved soon. "To reach a state where the technology is part of the average computer, we need to make it smaller and cheaper. We believe that this can be realized in a couple of years by partnering with the right manufacturer," said CEO Henrik Eskilsson.
Training the PCEye
The user must first train the device to recognize his eye movements. It requires that you focus on a dot on the screen, which will flash and then move to another spot. The process is repeated for each spot until the system is calibrated (yes it can be calibrated for several users). Used in conjunction with voice recognition, your hands wouldn't be needed at all. This could the ultimate controller for those with disabilities that make their hands hard to move, or for those with repetitive motion disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome. Surprisingly, the device works just as well if you wear contact lenses, glasses, or nothing at all.
Clicking and Selecting Items
To select or click an item, you simply "dwell" upon it with your eyes. Doornbos found it easier to just blink instead. He found that he had to hold his eyes very still to make that feature work. You can adjust the blink speed to your liking to minimize accidental clicks. The device has limitations when trying to select very small items on the screen so a larger screen configuration is probably best when using the device. Click and drag will also be difficult with this input system. However, the screen's floating menu made it easy to select between using yes to pan and using them as a mouse.
Effective but Pricey
For now, PCEye is probably the best assistive technology available for those with limited motor skills and certain neurological problems, but it's not quite ready as a replacement for the mouse for those without impairments. Functional limitations are one problem. The other is the hefty price tag. At $6,900, few will be able to afford it.