Eye Tracking, Revisited

Prototype of eye tracking laptop
Lenovo-Tobii eye tracking laptop prototype. (Picture from Engadget.)

Yesterday, I posted this article on my blog about software which tracks an user’s eyes as they look at websites on a computer browser. Incredible as it may seem, the capability of a webcam to track eye movements may have gotten cheaper and more widely available.

Earlier this week, Lenovo, a leading PC computer maker, debuted a laptop prototype that gives users the ability to control the computer with his or her eyes. Developed in conjunction with Tobii, a Swedish eye-tracking and eye-control technology firm, the demo laptop received solid reviews during its unveiling at the CeBIT 2011 trade show in Hannover, Germany.

Tobii has provided its eye-tracking technology for a decade to companies and individuals in the accessible technology market, but until now its products have been too large to fit into standard laptops. As reported on CNET, Tobii “hopes to make its eye-tracking components small and cheap enough to broaden their reach within a couple of years.”

With YouEye and (potentially) Lenovo on board with eye-tracking for the masses, what does it mean for established providers of eye-tracking products specially developed for people with disabilities (PwDs)? Across the disability landscape, it has become possible to develop off-the-shelf applications for PwDs that are cheaper, easier to obtain, and can customize just as well as legacy applications which cost thousands of dollars. ProLoquo2Go, Subtitles, and HippoRemote are just a few of the iPhone applications which deliver measureable benefits for PwDs with just one click of the download button.

By adapting its products for the mass market, Tobii appears to be aware of the trend toward mass customization, the declining cost of producing the components for its eye tracking products, and the emergence of platforms such as iOS and Android which make specialized features available to the mass market.

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