Written by Scott Thomas
Eye gaze, switch control, and similar technologies hold great value, permitting people with little to no function of their extremities or voice to live productively; unfortunately, eye-gaze technology has been expensive and largely limited to the affluent. Now, thanks to innovation in the fields of gaming and virtual reality (inspired by potential profit with two huge consumer bases), eye gaze is not only getting better, it’s getting more affordable! Priced at $150, the Tobii 4C is the first affordable eye-tracking system.
The earliest eye-tracking contraption was invented in 1908 by Edmund Huey. Participants in his study wore contact lenses with a marking to serve as a pointer to track eye movement. Huey’s experiment proved a hypothesis put forth twenty-nine years earlier when Louis Émile Javal observed that the eyes don’t move with fluency, but rather, move rapidly between brief moments of pause. Thus, the base for eye tracking was made.
Fast forward to the current century. On the backs of Huey and Javal, Tobii-Dynavox (worldwide leader in eye tracking) released its first consumer product, MyTobii D10, in 2004. Ten years later, I would become a Tobii consumer, operating a Tobii I-15+. In 2014, a Tobii I-15+ cost upwards of $13,000. Three years later, the PCEye Mini, including tablet, cost around $3,000.
Enter the Tobii 4C, a $150 eye-tracking device. Released and marketed as a video-gaming control in 2016, Tobii is now encouraging its purchase for general use with Microsoft’s recently upgraded software, which includes eye control. The Tobii 4C requires Windows 10, Fall Creators Update. The software is in beta stage and can be turned on in the ‘ease of access’ section in Settings.
We like the 4C for its price, but credit for this achievement is awarded to Microsoft. Using the 4C, I tested the Microsoft eye tracking in beta. It works, and it works well. A 4C is twice the physical length of a PCEye Mini, but when considering the price, who cares? The days of eye tracking being unaffordable appear to have come to an end.