PCR met with Tobii Tech’s president Oscar Werner to get an eyeful of the company’s eye tracking technology EyeX, and to play a bit of Assassin’s Creed with our eyes.
When I first heard that this gaze capturing technology would be built into the next installment of Assassin’s Creed I was intrigued, but dubious of its effectiveness, relevance in gaming and popularity amongst developers.
It turns out the gadget is pretty popular, as the Tobii EyeX Dev kit has already seen thousands of developers wanting to get their hands on one.
OK, so it’s a new piece of technology and these developers want to have a play, but it doesn’t mean it’ll be any good in a game… Right?
Wrong - after hogging the controller playing upcoming title, Assassin’s Creed: Rogue for longer than was probably expected, I was already used to the mechanics of looking at different areas of the screen to choose a direction, instead of using a mouse or a controller’s analog stick.
The physical interaction with the game made for a truly emmersive experience, that almost rids a gamer of the middle man (aka the controller) and places them directly into the shoes of the character, in this case a mighty Assassin. (Side note: it turns out I'm not a very good Assassin)
Tobii partnered with gaming gear company Steel Series, to launch the first gaming eye tracker at this year’s CES.
The device is a small strip that sits at the bottom of the screen and connects to the PC via USB.
The set up, which is personal to every user, takes not even two minutes complete, plus the plug in and play capabilities meant I was throwing my eyes around the screen in no time at all.
The tracker contains a camera and three illuminators that illuminate (funnily enough) the eye with a light pattern so it can calculate a vector from the users’ eyes to the screen.
Cynical as I am, I was expected major lag, unresponsiveness and difficult gameplay, purely due to the fact that it is a first in the gaming market. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the experience was seamless and there was no strain to the eyes or controls.
I asked Werner what this kind of tech would do for games, he said: “It does two things, the first is we can understand what the user is interested in, because where you look is a very good approximation of what you think about.
“The other thing that it does is it gives players another pointer, you’ll have one hand on your mouse and the other hand on the keyboard, so you've only got one way to point and ten ways (fingers) to give commands, which is limiting.
“The new way to point opens up a whole range of possibilities, such as running in one direction and looking or aiming in another at the same time.”
The possibilities are vast for this technology. Whether it is used for training, personal gaming or by professionals (the device is used by a number of pro-teams playing in the esports space).
And we haven’t even touched on the other sectors that could seriously benefit from eye tracking tech. Just think of what it could be used for in the military, the healthcare industry or education.
Fine, so I was too quick to brush this off as just another gadget that’ll get lost in a sea of gimmicky products. This little eye catching addition to a gamers’ setup could really have some clout in the industry.
It is only available for PC at the moment, there would be plentiful opportunities if Tobii was to partner with PlayStation, Xbox and even Nintendo.
Developers can order the dev kit from Tobii’s website for $139.
Keep an eye out here for the full interview with Tobii Tech’s Oscar Werner