Eye tracking on a laptop

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Tobii and Lenovo presented a laptop with a built-in eye tracker at CeBit last week. The eye tracker allows the user to control the laptop, for instance selecting files to open and selecting active window from an expose like view. Engadget have a video of a demonstration of the eye control on the laptop here. I wished I could get my hands on it for some testing. A laptop with a built-in eye tracker certainly has potential, from making eye tracking easier and more flexible for disabled and making usability testing using eye tracking more flexible allowing the usability specialist to move from their labs to the field.

It is interesting to see that the demonstration application is eye control. Eye control has a long history in HCI, for instance Rob Jacob‘s pioneering work on eye pointing “What you look at is what you get” (1990)  to MAGIC Pointing by Shumin Zhai, Carlos Morimoto and Steven Ihde  (1999) and most recently, Manu Kumar’s EyePoint (2007).  Eye control can certainly help alleviate mouse arm or stiff shoulders and have the potential to providing faster interaction, but research has shown mixed results in eye pointing being faster than the mouse. Tobii is aware of the research and use key commands to invoke selection, which speeds up the interaction.

I have not found an estimated price for a laptop with the eye tracker, but having in mind the current price of eye trackers, the potential benefits with eye control could hardly justify me to get one if not for research purposes. (This is a point on which I would love to be proven wrong.) It does, however, make for a good demo to attract attention at a place like CeBit.

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