Eye Movements Control New Laptop Computer
CREDIT: Tobii Technology
Lenovo and Tobii Technology unveiled a prototype of the world’s first eye-controlled laptop computer today (March 1) at CeBIT, the European consumer electronics show in Hanover, Germany.
The Lenovo laptop was a fully functional conceptual prototype using eye-tracking technology from Stockholm-based Tobii. The technology employs sensors to follow users' eye movements and interprets them to help the user navigate the Web, define unfamiliar terms, research topics and many other functions. It has been widely used for medical research, website design for Microsoft and Google, and consumer research like grocery store product placement, but this is the first eye-tracking device designed for the masses, which a Tobii executive said was the idea at the company's inception.
"Back in 2001, founder Henrik Eskilsson had a real vision for an eye tracker in every computer," Barbara Barclay, Tobii's general manager for North America, told TechNewsDaily. "For the first time, the technology is nearly small enough and cheap enough for inclusion in every laptop."
Barclay said she expects shoppers of most laptops within the next two years will have the choice of adding an eye-tracking feature for a few hundred dollars.
For now Lenovo has built 20 units, which it will use to test and refine the eye-tracking capability.
Looking and clicking combo
Eye control is a natural device interface. Using our eyes to point, select and scroll is intuitive and complements traditional control interfaces such as the mouse and keyboard.
"It is as if the computer understands you; just glance at an icon or gadget and more information will be presented," Barclay said.
For instance, when someone hesitates at an unfamiliar word while reading the screen, the device can detect the lengthened gaze and automatically provide an explanation.
But what about inadvertent eye movements? "We combine looking with clicking," she said. "Say you want to look at a Google Map and you know that zoom slider can be frustrating. With eye tracking, you just look and press the space bar to zoom in 50 percent or the Alt key for 150 percent." Intention can also be detected by the duration of a user's glance at the screen.
Speed and energy efficiency
Everyday computer tasks can take less time with eye tracking. Eye movements are the fastest movements the human body can produce, and eye-tracking therefore has great potential in speeding up human-computer interaction.
"There's no comparison in speed between the eye and the use of a mouse," Barclay said.
Eye-tracking also can provide energy benefits. The sensor can detect a user's gaze and brighten the display within microseconds, then dim it once the user takes his or her eyes off the screen for a specified length of time.
Refining the interface
Tobii is already in talks with major game developers about integrating eye-tracking into new games. At its demo at CeBIT, the company is showing off its Asteroids game where players "shoot with their eyes."
Over the next year or two, Lenovo and Tobii, using the 20 prototype units that have been manufactured, will gather information from users to refine the eye-laptop interface.