Coming Soon to a Mobile Device Near You: Eye-Control Technology

Tuesday, 04 Dec 2012 11:28 AM

By Michael Mullins

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Easy-to-use eye-control technology could soon be coming to mobile consumer devices like tablets and smartphones.

Methods for making gaze-control of computers possible has been around for a couple decades, and since late last year even available to consumers in devices such as the Tobii PCEye, but they use clunky, expensive hardware and advanced infrared projections to track eye movements — and they’ve never been available for mobile devices.

The Gaze Group, a Danish research group based at the IT University of Copenhagen, has worked to streamline, reduce the size, and make cheaper the technology for close to 20 years. The firm has spun off into a full-fledged business called The Eye Tribe, which has made the technology more precise and cheaper than ever.

The goal of founding The Eye Tribe was to make the technology more available to consumers everywhere. Instead of a large, external eye tracker, they’ve developed a tiny infrared camera filter for mobile devices.

Speaking about the current technology, Sune Alstrup Johansen of the Gaze Group and The Eye Tribe, told NPR in a recent profile: "Not everyone gets it. And obviously if you look at the rest of the world, a lot of people don't have access to these expensive eye trackers."

Imagine if Jean-Dominique Bauby, the paralyzed mute author of “The Diving Bell and The Butterfly,” the bestselling book written solely through a series of blinks translated by a partner assisted transcriber, had instead been able to control a computer with just his eyes. That sort of use for disabled users is a major goal of the researchers. But even more, it’s simply to make computing an easier, more intuitive experience.

"I hope our children will look back on us and think, 'Oh my God, it was so hard back then to use a computer. You had to sit down in front of it all day!'" John Paulin Hansen, another researcher with Eye Tribe, told NPR.

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