CeBIT ("Centrum der Büro - und Informationstechnik"; German for "Centre of Office and Information technology") is the only trade show on the planet that showcases the complete spectrum of ICT technology. It is held each spring in Hannover, Germany - the world's largest fairground. More than 4,200 exhibitors were at this year's expo, March 1 to 5 when Tobii Technology in partnership with Lenovo, unveiled a laptop prototype which allows users to control their computers by the movement of the human eye and could make them even faster to use, according to the inventors. Tobii has been making eye-tracking devices for nearly a decade but due to the high cost they have been reserved only for lab researchers and to help the disabled.
This innovation was created by the Swedish firm Tobii Technology on a Lenovo laptop, the world's fourth largest manufacturer of personal computers. For now only 20 of these prototype eye-controlled notebooks have been built and split evenly between the two inventors for development and demo purposes. It is about twice as thick as a normal laptop to accommodate the cameras, but Tobii manager, Barbara Barclay says thinner versions will be available after about two years of production. The laptop tracks eye movement by shining two invisible lights into the user's eyes. The reflections in the retinas are then picked up by two built_in cameras and used to detect their direction. The "eye-gaze data," as Tobii calls it, is vital, as it provides a new level of input that accompanying software can use in any number of ways. Each laptop is tailored to its user, and works for those with or without glasses.
Controlling a laptop screen with nothing but eye contact sounds like a fascinating idea though one that I guess you have to try before you buy. It is as if the computer understands you - you can scroll through documents; zoom in on pictures and maps; have a word explained when your gaze lingers on it; and switch between windows. The screen will even dim to save power when it detects that it is not being looked at. Just think those point-and-shoot games become glance-and-shoot games.
Using this new device will be both simple and difficult. You will be forced to focus on where your eyes go. Stray glances will mean unwanted menus and using your eyes to control familiar functions will take some getting used to. (remember when you first used a touchpad) It's not a hands-free experience. You will have to use the keyboard to execute many of the commands. Tobii has explained that what the eye-tracking technology is supposed to do is minimize hand involvement in computing tasks, not eliminate them.
It will most likely take at least a couple years before this eye-tracking system reaches our store shelves. Will it be the laptop of the future Is it time for the mouse to move over or will this be another "gee-whiz" feature that looks amazing...in the demo