New TV sensor uses eye control instead of a remote

by Dale Wright

Although internet-connected TVs have been around for a while, some of the user interface design leaves a little to be desired. YouView and Google have made a decent stab at a great TV interface, but the real competition may come from Apple if their rumoured TV set is announced.

Tobii Logo New TV sensor uses eye control instead of a remote

The Apple TV set would probably have voice control, powered by the same technology that runs Siri on the iPhone. However, a new Swedish firm could pip Apple to the post by including another kind of control: eye recognition.

Dubbed Gaze, the new TV sensor works a little like the Xbox Kinect, but recognises eye tracking rather than gestures. It reacts to the movement of the viewer’s eyes in order to change the channel, turn the volume up and down or control the TV’s user interface. The user can also blink to make a selection, just as they would press a button or click a mouse.

Tobii, the company which invented Gaze, admits that the system isn’t perfect, but neither are voice-controlled systems. For example, the software has trouble detecting movement if the viewer is wearing spectacles, and it needs to be set up for each individual user to ‘learn’ their eye movements before it can be used. In contrast, Siri has been criticised for having limited location knowledge and struggling with strong accents.

The team at Tobii are focusing on developing eye tracking in order to allow disabled people to interact with technology; they also developed a laptop and car which use the same kind of eye tracking, and the idea would also be extended to information screens and gaming. For now, Tobii’s eye tracking sensors are far too expensive for the average consumer, but if the accuracy improves and people begin to adopt the technology, we might see eye tracking making its way to smartphones and tablet PCs in the not-too-distant future.