2014 CES Unveiled
By Hank Tolman
There is a lot of excited stuff happening at CES 2014. I have to be honest, though, while I think 4K Ultra HD is cool, it is also currently way outside of my budget. I’ve seen a lot about LG’s new 4K TVs and curved screens. I think the technology is great, but I can’t afford it this year. At CES Unveiled: 2014, I went it looking for cool new tech that was within my price range and something that I could see myself adopting soon. I found a lot of cool stuff.
Tobii Partners with SteelSeries
Chances are, if you have read Benchmark Reviews for any time at all, you have heard of SteelSeries. The gaming peripheral manufacturer announced a partnership at CES with Tobii, an eye-tracking technology company that has been honing their products for a few years now. Tobii is partnering with SteelSeries to bring eye-tracking to the gaming crowd. That’s me.
I sat down at one of the demo systems that Tobii had set up with their EyeX Controller during CES Unveiled: 2014 and tried it out. The first demo was World of Warcraft enabled with eye-tracking. I was a little unsure of what the benefit would be, exactly, but I soon found out. If you play MMORPGs, like WoW, then you are familiar with the tedious need at some point to walk long distances around the expansive worlds. Num-Lock is a life saver in these situations, because it enables auto-run. That’s great until you run into a tree. Eye-tracking comes into play here by allowing you to move left or right and look up or down with eye movements rather than using a keyboard or mouse. So go ahead and enjoy that sandwich while auto-running through the Barrens, you won’t need your hands to unstuck yourself.
Other MMORPG uses for Tobii that were demonstrated include macro-enabled pop-up menus accessed via eye-tracking. For example, you press the middle mouse button and a circular menu of icons such as the character screen, options menu, bags, or otherwise, pops up. By looking at the icon associated with your character screen and releasing the middle-mouse button, you can open up the character screen in a fraction of a second. There is a lot of flexibility here and if you can think of something useful that can be moved to eye-tracking rather than button-pressing, they can probably make it happen.
There was also a demo for a First Person Shooter that allows you to use eye-tracking for oft used functions. Rather than holding down control or c to move forward while crouching, simple hunch down a little in your seat. To stand back, straighten. I often find myself leaning a little to the right or left when looking around corners in games. My wife always laughs at me, but I’m one of those people who moves a static controller all over the place in racing games. Tobii’s eye-tracking system makes that movement mean something, as my character will now react to my movements and look around the corner.
There are plenty of other applications that Tobii is working on for their eye-tracking software. They are currently preparing to offer compatible programming for a number of recent and soon to be released games. Tobii’s platform is also useful for simply selecting things on screen. I use an HTPC connected to my TV for all of my home-entertainment. To navigate, I use a wireless mouse that is constantly being lost or dropped by my kids. The batteries pop out and roll under the couch and now I’m on the floor groping around for a lost battery. With Tobii, I can now select what I’m looking for simply by looking for it.
Tobii is offering the Tobii EyeX developer’s kit starting during CES, which will ship in March if you use the promo code CES2014. It costs $95 and includes the hardware, middleware, and development framework to get you started writing code for Tobii’s eye-tracking solutions.
Here are some explanations of the features from Tobii themselves:
- Natural interaction – Characters’ behavior is influenced by eye contact just as in real life. A shy person might look away. Or someone might become upset if you stare at him too long.
- Revealing intentions – In FIFA, you select the player to whom you want to pass the ball with your gaze so you can continue to operate the selected player with your controls. However, your gaze may also reveal your intentions to your competitors – just as in real life.
- Aiming at gaze point – Aim your flashlight or weapon where you look. Then use the regular controls to shoot.
- Moving as in real life – You move around in a more natural way. Lean forward to look around corners, or pull back to hide. Your gaze reveals your intent, and the opponent may ambush you or change its path.