The first consumer eye-tracking device for gamers is on display this week at E3, the big Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. But that's only the most visible use of eye tracking, which has started to spread to other devices and applications.
Sentry Eye Tracker is a thin bar under a PC monitor that follows a player's eye movements and length of attention time on specific screen areas. The peripheral is the result of a partnership between game peripheral maker SteelSeries and Swedish company Tobii Technology.
The peripheral is not for casual gamers, mind you. It is intended to add a new dimension to competitive game training, by allowing a player to determine where he or she was spending too much or too little time. Low values of Fixations Per Minute means that a user moved their gaze frequently, and thus was able to quickly process information, and this can correlate to the actions per minute that these players can perform.
'Death and Victory'
To determine benchmarks, SteelSeries is establishing peak performance goals by working with top professional gamers, so that serious gamers can compare their performance with the champs.
The Eye Tracker is also being used for in-game control -- controlling and operating a game via eye movement -- although that capability is not yet available.
Professional gamer Patrik 'cArn' Sättermon said in a statement accompanying the Eye Tracker announcement that gamers "are constantly looking for ways to improve, even if it's improvement at a granular level, that will sometimes be the difference between death and victory. Our players are incredibly motivated to not only use the Sentry Eye Tracker for their own gaming, but to be able to create standards that other players can measure their progress against."
Tobii, which says its technology is in use in more than half of the eye-tracking devices on the market, has a long list of applications besides games. Its eye-tracking glasses are used in a variety of market research projects, where consumers' visual notice and attention to, say, product placement on shelves or navigational paths on a Web site can be precisely measured.
Other areas where the technology is being employed include research to determine the performance of transactional, computer-based systems. Like gamers, companies who deal with high volumes of e-commerce want to score bigger by shaving seconds off an action.
There are also applications in medicine. Tobii says researchers have determined that Alzheimer's, and autism in young children, can be diagnosed earlier by tracking eye movements and responses.
If SteelSeries and Tobii are successful in developing an Eye Tracker that could be used for game control, it could have applicability far beyond gaming. Such a device would enhance the ability for disabled users to move cursors, perform tasks, communicate and control equipment, simply by the use of their eyes. Tobii has also said it's in discussion with retailers about an eye-tracking device for kiosks.
Samsung already uses eye-tracking technologies on some of its phone models. Intel is an investor in Tobii, so the technology could begin appearing in computing devices.