PCs begat PC games, which then spawned PC gaming peripherals, and then game tournaments with large cash prizes. Now Tobii has taken its eye-tracking technology and helped create the first e-sports training tool.
The SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker takes the Tobii technology and uses it as a virtual e-sports coach, tracking players' eye movements across the screen. Both companies hope gamers will use it in much the same way that NFL teams uses game film, trying to break down their strengths and where each individual player may improve.
And yes, the rise of the e-sports continues to justify the investment. Twitch.tv, which allows gamers to broadcast their own game streams and serves as the official broadcast partner of sorts for many gaming tournaments, reportedly generated just under two percent of all U.S. Internet traffic at peak periods.
Gamers form teams and play games like Defense of the Ancients and StarCraft 2 against each other in tournaments like the International, which paid out $2.8 million in winnings for the 2013 event, according to eSportsEarnings.com. The 2014 International prize pool is $8.8 million. A list of the top 100 players puts total earnings for each in the six-figure range. Additional training and diagnostics, presumably, will boost potential earnings even higher.
The SteelSeries Eye Tracker is a slender bar placed under a monitor. An infrared ray of light tracks a user's retina, and calculates what he or she is looking at. The idea, according to the company, is to maximize what Tobii calls "Fixations Per Minute," or the amount of information that a gamer processes.
"We have so much data, so many numbers, so many figures, that teams like us should use way more wisely than we do right now," said Patrik Sattermon, chief gaming officer for Fnatic, a professional gaming team, in a video SteelSeries shot for the launch.
Interestingly, the Tobii technology was actually designed as an alternative to the mouse. Gamers can look at a particular spot on the screen, click a key on a keyboard, and the PC registers a mouse click. In my personal experience, it's amazingly accurate. SteelSeries and Tobii haven't built in that capability, but will add that "in the future," the companies said.
Neither company announced a price or a ship date for the Eye Tracker. But it appears that sophisticated benchmarking and diagnostics have migrated off the playing field and onto the PC screen. Game on.