The technology could change the way we think about a fine-grained user interface.
Eye-tracking, a technology once restricted to the lab and other specialized spaces, may this year makes its debut in the mainstream gaming world. A controller called the EyeX that has been created by SteelSeries and powered by Stockholm-based Tobii‘s eye-tracking technology is available for pre-order for developers this year at $95, and a commercial version, presumably with some native titles in tow, will soon hit the market as well. The devices’ possibilities are limited only by developers’ imaginations.
The device works by emitting structured light that reflects off of the surface of the eyes. A specialized sensor catches the reflection of this light and uses it to build a 3D model of the eye and track where the head is facing.
In a promotional video, the developers explained how the EyeX can also be used to improve existing user experiences. In StarCraft, for example, users currently have to switch between the main screen and the mini-map using their mouse, an ungainly process that causes them to lose control of their army. Eye-tracking technology adds a second device that allows for the same type of fine-grained control that a mouse or touch screen provides. As Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat wrote, “The eyes can enormously expand the bandwidth for control between a gamer and the game, enabling a player to do a lot more at the same time. That makes the game feel more real or easier to learn.”
Even more exciting are the possibilities for newly developed games, which could attach eye movement control to particular tools and items or replicate the social and practical uses of eye contact in real life. No word yet on whether the device could one day pick up on the human eye’s many subtle expressions, but the use of eye contact to signal intentions could revolutionize environments like sports games, where the direction in which players look sets the stage for passes – and reveals your intentions to the opposing team as well.
The developer’s kit can be ordered at a special price of $95 for next week’s CES conference in Las Vegas; its regular price $195, and the developers expect the system to become available to gamers in mid-2014. Meet the developers below.