Tobii Sets Sights on Gamers and Consumers with EyeX Tech

Their last appearance at CES sported a “gaze-controlled” version of the arcade game “Asteroids.” This time around Tobii is dreaming bigger and announced a new partnership with SteelSeries to prove it. The eye-tracking experts are working with the gaming peripheral manufacturer to deliver a unique controller capable of navigating the virtual world in a more natural way. As these devices won’t be available until the middle of this year, however, Tobii is whetting appetites with its new Windows-ready EyeX controllers.

With multiple software demonstrations running in the background, one Tobii representative mentioned the core concept behind Tobii’s aspirations: “You always need to look first before you do something.”

This type of natural behavior can be used to make more functional, yet less cluttered interfaces that can be navigated more quickly and intuitively.

Tobii’s EyeX developer kit will be ready to ship in March for $195 (or $95 this week as a CES special). The kit includes the hardware, middleware to help with development, and software to facilitate interactions with Windows out-of-the-box. Of course the previous version of the hardware, the Tobii Rex, is ready to ship now, priced at $295. The company is also working with OEMs to bring eye-tracking technology in all its guises to the consumer market by 2015.

The binocular system uses a near-infrared illuminator to place a pattern on the cornea, which can be read by microsensors positioned near the light sources. The device then processes that information and provides two gaze points for the computer to use as inputs. It’s a slim box that clips to monitors much like Microsoft Kinect.

It works best when the user is roughly 60 to 85 cm away from the screen, making it ideal for laptops and desktop computers, but perhaps limiting for larger form factor screens.

A 3-minute video is available on the Tobii site.