Eye-tracking company Tobii announced today that its software and hardware are ready to be implanted in consumer electronic devices, opening up new possibilities for computer and mobile gaming, as well as virtual and augmented reality. The company has in the past licensed its technology to third parties for offbeat gaming products — you may know it from EyeAstroids, an arcade shooter you control with your eyes, or from the strange Assassin's Creed PC game that let you pause by looking offscreen. But now Tobii has an official consumer-geared platform it calls IS4, equipped with chip technology called EyeChip, for the purpose of bringing eye tracking to PCs, laptops, tablets, VR and AR headsets, and automobiles.
Tobii has been around the block a bit; the IS4 is its sixth-generation eye tracker. The Swedish company, founded in 2001, has made a name for itself as the go-to supplier of professional and consumer eye tracking. It provides pricey but powerful products for both research universities and corporations under its Tobii Pro line. Meanwhile, Tobii Dynavox is the company's line of assistive health products for those suffering from ALS and other degenerative diseases that need assistance speaking or manually operating technology. The $195 EyeX kit is also a low-cost way for developers to play around with eye tracking that Tobii has positioned as a way to get game makers to integrate the feature in new titles from the get go.
Tobii Tech, the division dedicated to consumer technology and the automotive industry, is now preparing to try and weave eye tracking into every device with a screen and a keyboard-mouse setup. With an early access program, device makers can apply to receive reference design info, integration guides, and other tools for equipping hardware with Tobii's eye tracking system.
It's easy to see where Tobii's products benefit research facilities and neurodegenerative patients, but it's not clear what benefits eye tracking brings to the consumer realm just yet. The company's list of eye tracking-supported games implement the tech in gimmicky ways. And we've seen some interesting head-tracking features built into the now-abandoned Amazon Fire Phone, but nothing groundbreaking. Beyond the occasional gimmick or rudimentary control over video game characters and in-game cameras, the real value in consumer eye tracking has yet to be fully realized.