January 27, 2015
Apple has patented an advanced gaze-tracking graphical user interface that could eventually allow users to control their CE devices without having to lift a finger. Gaze-tracking controls are usually inhibited by the Troxler Effect, a visual phenomenon that sometimes makes the computer cursor disappear. However, the new tech utilizes hardware and software solutions to solve the problem caused by the effect. Apple could potentially use this new interface in Mac laptops, iPhones, iPads, and even the next generation Apple TV.
The new Apple TV will reportedly have more advanced motion controls. Apple Insider speculates, “If an eye-tracking feature is included, perhaps with voice control functionality for making selections and calling up menus, Apple would be ushering in a new breed of ‘hands-off’ device control.”
The gaze-tracking graphical user interface works because of eye-tracking hardware that accurately tracks the user’s gaze. Those measurements are used to match the movable indicator on-screen with the user’s eye movements.
This is where most gaze-tracking systems run into problems. Sometimes the indicator, or cursor will become fixed at a location on the user’s retina, thanks to the Troxler Effect. If that indicator moves along with a person’s gaze, it may seem to disappear.
Apple’s patent will measure the elapsed time between eye movements and blinking, and the user’s distance from the display to determine when the user may experience the “cursor fade.” To counter the Troxler Effect, the system may slightly move the indicator or animate the indicator, so that the user never loses gaze control.