The Tobii REX eye tracking peripheral is the coolest thing I’ve seen at CES thus far

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There are a lot of great – and sometimes not-so-great – gadgets at the International CES, spanning every type of technology you can imagine. But so far, Tobii’s eye tracking technology is one of the coolest things I’ve seen this year. Essentially, it allows you to replace a mouse with your eyesight.

Tobii introduced its Gaze technology at last year’s CES, but the company’s new Tobii REX peripheral lets you turn any Windows 8 PC into a device that will track your eyes and respond accordingly. The technology is beautifully simplistic, and it almost feels magical. All it takes is a quick calibration, and you’re up and running. From there, you need only look at something on the screen and press a button on the keyboard to “click.” While this does require some interaction with a peripheral, it’s a lot easier than having to move a mouse, touch, or slide your finger over a trackpad.

Now, you’re probably wondering just how well the technology works. I too was skeptical initially, so I put it to the test. I quickly darted my eyes back and forth across the screen, going in and out of menus and apps at a very fast pace. Surprisingly, Tobii’s technology managed to keep up just fine. While I was worried that it would need to have larger hit targets (for example, the live tiles on the Windows 8 Start screen), it worked just fine with drop-down lists and hyperlinks too. I only encountered one issue with accuracy, but I suspect that was because the Weather app I was using was an older version and did not have some of the features that the latest version includes.

The technology can also be used to scroll – simply hold down the scroll key and look in the direction you’d like the page to move – and navigate maps. Although in the latter case, you’ll still need to use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out, and panning the map was a little slow. Additionally, there were a few Windows Store apps which are currently incompatible with the scrolling feature.

Overall, Tobii’s eye tracking technology is impressive. There are a number of ways it could be integrated into future laptops, tablets, games, and more. In fact, I could almost see Microsoft adding it to Kinect’s arsenal of controller-less features at some point. Tobii REX is available now for developers as an SDK, and it will be released for consumers this fall.

Make sure to stop by our CES 2013 forum for hands-on impressions, giveaways, and much more!

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William Devereux

William Devereux is the former Microsoft editor at Pocketables, as well as a Microsoft MVP and SkyDrive/Outlook.com Insider. As his title implies, he wrote about all things from Redmond, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone. He is currently carrying a Windows Phone 8X by HTC and a Microsoft Surface with Windows RT tablet.

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7 thoughts on “The Tobii REX eye tracking peripheral is the coolest thing I’ve seen at CES thus far

  • Avatar of Andreas Ødegård

    They track your eyes for mouse movement but can’t track a long blink as a click…? Either way, sounds interesting

    • Avatar of William Devereux

      I think they could if they wanted to – and devs can always implement it themselves – but it would slow down the navigation speed.

  • Does it work for people with glasses?

    • Avatar of William Devereux

      Yes, it does!

  • Avatar of Tray Rolin

    How do you right click?…..

    • Avatar of William Devereux

      You don’t – yet. But that wouldn’t be too hard to implement with a different key press.

  • Interesting. It kind of has a ‘big brother’ feel to me in the fact that it can so accurately track your eye’s movements – I’d be interested to see the privacy policy accompanying the final product.

    It’s a cool idea though, and if what you say is true on how well it works, it could be the next big thing.


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