Science-Fact or Science Fiction: Eyeball-Controlled Laptops

by Adam Popescu

Sounds Sci-Fi, doesn’t it? Maybe not.

Tobii’s eye-tracking technology allows users hands-free laptop control: with the ability to scroll through emails and documents, hands free. Not sure if typing is plausible, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of functionality was developed to put it on the menu.

The Wall Street Journal’s All Things D blog reported widespread adoption could be a few years out, according to Tobii general manager Barbara Barclay’s comments at the D9 conference earlier this month.

The New York Times reported on Tobii Technologies back in March. Tobbi was founded in 2001 at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden. It now has offices in the U.S., Germany, Norway, Japan and China. Products include eye-assistance machines that without-a-doubt help the disable improve day-to-day life.

From “Before we began the demo, Barbara explained the technology. Tobii’s eye control works a bit like the Xbox Kinect (or a reverse Wii), but on a much closer scale. As you sit in front of the laptop, a row of two synced infrared sensors located under the screen scan your eyes. They do this about 30 to 40 times per second, examining the size and angle of your pupil, the glint in each of your eyes, and the distance between you and the laptop. Together, the two sensors create a stereoscopic 3D image of your eye for the computer to examine. Based on the angle and glint of your eye, Tobii’s technology calculates precisely which part of the screen you are looking at. It can even tell when you look away or close your eyes. To save power, the demo unit on hand darkened its screen when we looked away.”

After years of consuming negative, future-imperfect man vs. machine media in the form of the Terminator, Mad Max, and the Matrix, here’s to the growth of human-machine integration, in a sci-fiesque, positive way.

–Adam Popescu