Tobii Prepares Cheap Eye Controller for PCs, May Ruin First-Person Shooters

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Being able to control a computer with your eyes sounds like the stuff of sci-fi, but it’s coming to mainstream users sooner than you think. Tobii Technology, whose impressive eye control tech once cost thousands of dollars, is preparing a much cheaper version that will land on store shelves early next year, toward the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter. Instead of using its own brand name, Tobii will partner with a major device manufacturer, and the product will be similar in price to a Leap Motion ($80) or a Kinect ($100). Carl Korobkin, Tobii’s vice president of OEM solutions, laid out Tobii’s roadmap in an interview last week. While Korobkin didn’t give away any specific product details, he made it clear that the standalone device will be affordable for the mass market, and said we could expect to hear more around the CES trade show in January. “It’s absolutely a price where you’ll see it on the endcap and go, ‘Oh my god, whoa, it’s the coolest thing,’” Korobkin said. “You’ll just pick it up. You’re not going to think twice about the price.” Having sampled Tobii’s technology at CES in years past, I want to believe he’s right. Eye tracking doesn’t sound practical or essential until you use it and realize it’s faster and more natural than a mouse or trackpad. In the PC demos I’ve tried, you use your eyes to control where your cursor goes, but you still use a button on your mouse or keyboard to click on things. Eye tracking simply speeds up the process; instead of dragging your mouse to where you want to click, you just look at the target and press a button, and the cursor instantly zips over. Tobii has designed some other system-level uses as well, such as scrolling through web pages as your eyes move downward, and zooming into a map or photo where your eyes are focused. Developers will be able to create applications that extend the use of eye tracking even further.

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