In the age of touch, it’s time to welcome ‘sight’. It’s time to put our hands to rest and let our eyes do the talking, the typing, the moving, the reading, and everything else. All this thanks to the eye tracking technology embedded in the newest Lenovo laptop. The world’s fourth largest manufacturer of PCs, Lenovo, has partnered with Swedish startup Tobii Technology to create the world’s first eye controlled laptop. The archetype was on display at CeBIT in Hanover, Germany, last week.
This laptop assists users in reading, scrolling up and down on a page, select, and zoom on a particular point, with the help of eye movements. It is not a bid to replace the mouse and keyboard, but to assist them and make working on a laptop friendlier and relaxing.
Henrik Eskilsson, CEO of Tobii announced, “More than anything else, the Tobii laptop prototype is proof that our eye-tracking technology is mature enough to be used in standard computer interfaces. To reach a state where the technology is part of the average computer, we need to make it smaller and cheaper“. The eye-tracking technology scrutinizes the user’s gaze and follows it across the page and icons. It zooms on the exact object the eye is looking at, and zooms out when the user’s gaze shifts. It can scroll text on the screen in response to eye movements, sensing when the reader has reached the end of a text, thus making reading on the laptop much more comfortable and helping save paper.
One doesn’t need to keep scrolling through a long document, but you can merely glance and go to the part that interests you. Playing the point and shoot games becomes much more interesting and fast, where you just need to look at the object or opponent you wish to attack, and the job is done before you blink your eye. The prototype can also brighten the screen in correspondence with the user’s eye and conserve battery, and it can dim the brightness when no one is looking or with respect to the surrounding light.
“We anticipate that people will be extremely excited to be able to control their computer with their eyes“, said Barbara Barclay, General Manager of Tobii North America. “But what we find most exciting are the opportunities that eye control as part of natural user interfaces offers consumer electronics manufacturers in a range of product categories“.
This breakthrough technology will be of special use to paraplegics and people who suffer from other kinds of paralysis that makes their hands unusable. Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, outlines, – Lenovo needs to distinguish itself technologically to show that it’s got something special and different. Earlier, IBM was well engineered and made robust which gave them a certain upper hand against its competitors. But it wasn’t enough to combat Compaq or Dell from taking market share from them. Being case specific about this one, the input method is a pretty distinct differentiator which is something Lenovo could market because it’s visible.
The 20 laptops that are being tried out now will increase in production depending on customer reviews, in about 2 years time. You’ll have to wait and watch what other senses are next targeted by the developing technology.