This company coming seemingly out of nowhere with a stand-alone eye-tracking device in a partnership with Steel Series, an eye-tracker-enabled gaming laptop in partnership with MSI, and a growing number software partnerships with companies like Ubisoft and Avalanche might be a new force in gaming, but it’s been studying eyeballs — and tracking them — for a long, long time. When you play Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, The Hunter, The Hunter: Primal and many more games to come (they showed me some, but I can’t talk about them), you will experience what data researchers and ability engineers have known for over a decade: Your eyes know what you’re thinking before your hands do.
My time at Tobii is full of interesting experiences, but one thing sticks out — and it happens multiple times — the people here are almost supernaturally aware of what I’m thinking. In multiple interviews, Tobii employees will comment on how I am interacting with them, how I maintain eye contact while they are speaking, to encourage them to continue; how I nod at them to indicate that I am listening; and smile to influence them to expand on what they might be saying. Subtle interview tricks I learned so long ago I’m no longer aware of doing them. But the people I talk to at Tobii are aware. They’re aware and responding. Because they’re watching my eyes. And they’re programming computers to do the exact same thing.
This bit is interesting, on how eye tracking can remove one step of abstraction from interaction with software interfaces using the typical modern computer hardware.
Bouvin demonstrates by picking up a pencil from the table in front of us. First he looks at the pencil, then he moves his hand to pick it up. In the computing world, we’ve become used to this type of interaction, but everyone who is currently alive who knows how to use a computer has had to train their mind to add a step between what they see and interacting with it.
We’ve had to learn the motor control of seeing, and then moving a cursor with a mouse or a trackpad, and then interacting.
Tobii eye tracking will remove that inter-evolutionary step, making it possible for us to interact with computers in the same way we interact with the world. Look at a thing. Interact with the thing. No cursor required.
“What you get with eye tracking is you can substitute pretty much all of that positioning, all that directional input, because your eyes are there before you touch,” says Bouvin. “You’re looking there. The movement and directional thing becomes unnecessary. Same with a mouse. You’re already there with your eyes. Moving the mouse cursor there is a step you can more or less do without. The only thing that’s left is the actual action.”