Tobii Lets You Destroy Asteroids With Your Eyes; We Go Eyes-On

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A laptop with the Tobii sensor below the screen.
You know that you can control your laptop with your mouse, trackpad, and keyboard--and you may even know that you can control your laptop with your voice, and maybe elaborate gestures thanks to motion-tracking devices such as Microsoft's Kinect. But did you know that you can also control your laptop with your eyes?

Sweden-based Tobii Technology has developed eye-tracking technology that allows you to control your laptop and other devices using only your eyes. Seriously, just your eyes--you don't even have to put on ugly glasses or a weird head contraption, all you have to do is sit down in front of the computer.

Tobii is built into the laptop, which is made by Lenovo, and is located below the screen. It's actually pretty simple (well, sort of). It works by shooting infrared lights into your eyes to cause red-eye (sounds dangerous, I know, but they assure me it's perfectly safe). By doing this, Tobii is able to create a 3D model of your eyeball and determine where your eye is relative to space. It then tracks the glint off of your eyeball to determine where your foveal vision, or sharp central vision, is, and, consequently, where you're looking.

I got to check out the technology at CES Unveiled--and I must say, I'm impressed. Initially there's some calibration, but it's pretty quick and easy. All you have to do is sit down in front of the computer and follow the flashing dots on the screen with your eyes--there are about five in total. This is a one-time calibration, as once you've calibrated it the computer knows where your eyes are.

The particular version I was using was a laptop version (they also had a desktop and an arcade game on display), so it works from about 29 inches away. The arcade game version works from about three feet away.

Once the calibration is finished (it only takes about thirty seconds), you can start eye-controlling your device right away. For the demonstration the Tobii team had a game called EyeAsteroids, which is also an arcade game. EyeAsteroids is super simple: all you have to do is look at an asteroid hurtling through space toward your planet and it will be destroyed.

There are a couple of other uses for Tobii technology in a non-entertainment environment. For example, the technology can track your eye movement when you're reading a document and automatically scroll down when you reach the end of the page. Also, the technology allows you to zoom into a particular area of the screen just by looking at that part of the screen and using your mouse's scroll wheel.

In Video: Tobii Eye-Tracking Demo At CES 2012

At the moment, Tobii technology isn't quite ready for consumers--though Tobii has developed a Gaze Interface for the upcoming Windows 8--but it's still pretty cool and I can attest to its accuracy. It's not a replacement for your mouse or your keyboard, either, since you can't blink to click or anything cool like that (because, after all, you blink a lot more often than you click on things), it's just an additional way to interact with your device.

For more blogs, stories, photos, and video from the nation's largest consumer electronics show, check out PCWorld's complete coverage of CES 2012.

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