Plenty of video games try to make you feel like a superhero, but Tobii’s eye-controlled version of Asteroids pulls it off in ways that joysticks and buttons never could.
In Tobii’s take on this classic shooter, instead of steering a spaceship, you blow up asteroids simply by glancing at them, like some sort of supreme being. The best part is that it actually works. It doesn’t take anything special to make the screen do your eyes’ bidding, except for a brief calibration at the outset.
Tobii was demonstrating its technology at CES, using some PCs rigged up with the company’s eye-tracking sensor bars. These sensor bars are pretty bulky–a couple inches tall and nearly the width of a laptop–and cost prohibitive for consumer use. In about a year, Tobii plans to target medical uses and computer-aided design, and will move on to mass consumer products in a couple years or so. By then, the company hopes its technology can be integrated in PCs or sold as small peripherals.
Eye-tracking wouldn’t only be useful for gaming. Tobii was also showing off more practical uses for the technology with an early version of Windows 8. Users could, for instance, open applications by looking at them while pressing a button, or control the point of zoom on a web page based on where their eyes are focused. Because our eyes are so fast and accurate, eye-tracking could allow us to navigate through computers faster than we do with touch or traditional input devices alone. It’s just a matter of getting the cost and size down, and getting people used to the idea of controlling computers with sight. After pulverizing space rocks with the near-equivalent of laser eyesight, I’m a believer.