Look, ma, no hands! operating a laptop with eyes only ny times - 2012.01.26


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Look, ma, no hands! operating a laptop with eyes only ny times - 2012.01.26

  1. 1. 2/11/12 Look, Ma, No Hands! Operating a Laptop With Eyes Only - NYTimes.com JANUAR 26, 2012, 1:43 PM Look, Ma, No Hands! Operating a Laptop With E es Onl When the great history books of technology are written, the early 2000s may be remembered as the Age of Human-Computer Interface Exploration. For nearly 40 years, we ve had the keyboard and the mouse. Point, click. Point, click. It works, but it s indirect. You may be The Times s technology columnist, Dav id Pogue, keeps too young to remember, but the mouse wasn t always the y ou on top of the industry in easiest thing to learn. (I spent many years working as a his free, weekly e-mail newsletter. personal computer tutor, paying house calls to frustrated adults Sign up | See Sample who were struggling to enter the digital age.) But then came the Wii. We could control a computer by waving a wireless remote in space. There was the iPhone and iPad: we could control a computer by pointing and dragging a finger on glass. There was the Microsoft Xbox Kinect: we could control a computer without touching it at all, just by moving our limbs in space. Then came Siri on the iPhone 4S, which took voice control to a much more sophisticated, fluid level. Each of these breakthroughs works brilliantly in its particular niche — but we re not done yet. At the International Consumer Electronics Show a couple of weeks ago, I d heard buzz about a company called Tobii, which was demonstrating a laptop with built-in eye-tracking software. (That s Tobii, “with two eyes,” get it?) Now eye tracking isn t new. It is available, at huge cost, in the military, in specialized industries, for disabled people, and so on. But it s one thing to pay millions for a heads-up display in a fighter jet, and quite another to have it on your laptop. I found the company s booth out in the deepest reaches of C.E.S. s 37-football-fields-big exhibition halls.—.the Siberia of tiny booths from companies without a lot of money to spend. The entire booth was pretty much one laptop and one desktop PC. A representative helped me through the demo on the laptop. First, the system finds and learns where your eyes are by using a 10-second calibration procedure, in which you simply look at an orange dot as it jumps to four positions around the screen. Then you re ready. The first demonstration was an Asteroids game, in which you re supposed to blow up incoming asteroids just by looking at them. You discover that Tobii s system works perfectly, flawlessly, exhilaratingly. Your hands are free, your body is relaxed, and you re blowing uppogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/look-ma-no-hands-operating-a-laptop-with-eyes-only/?pagemod 1/2
  2. 2. 2/11/12 Look, Ma, No Hands! Operating a Laptop With Eyes Only - NYTimes.com space rocks instantly with nothing but the awesome power of your gaze. Another demonstration involved Google Maps: the software automatically focuses and zooms in wherever you seem to be focusing. There was a slide show app, in which you see the thumbnails of many photos, and whenever you gaze at one in particular, it automatically blows up full screen. On a PC running Windows 8, you could click toolbar buttons in Word, click tile buttons and swipe through screens, all using your eyes. In an architecture-design program, you could effortlessly move around a large blueprint with your eyes, using the mouse s scroll wheel to zoom in at any point. (For the disabled, Tobii makes a kit that lets you “click the mouse” by blinking or staring, but the system really works best in conjunction with a regular trackpad or mouse.) The demo that really rocked my world, though, was something much less glamorous: reading. Imagine a Web page or Word document on the screen before you — and the page scrolls automatically, gracefully and effortlessly as you proceed through the article. The system knows where your eyes are and how fast you are going, so it keeps your place centered on the screen, scrolling automatically as you go, even if you jump back to reread something. It feels as if this is how reading on a computer screen was always meant to be. The rep said that the company was marketing this system to computer manufacturers, not individuals (although the company also sells hugely expensive add-on kits for existing computers — for disabled people, for example). And he said it would take a couple of years before you could buy it. Furthermore, as excited as I was by my first experience with everyday eye tracking, I later discovered that not all of it is new. Tobii, it turns out, has competitors. And Tobii isn t a new company, or even a small company; it s a big Swedish outfit that makes eye-tracking products for all kinds of uses. Even the laptop wasn t new; a Google search indicates that Tobii has been demonstrating it at trade shows for a year. Even so, you know right away when you try it: There is something here. It may be a couple of years away, but the technology is stunning — and the possibilities are limitless. Cop right 2012 The New York Times Compan Privac Polic NYTimes.com 620 Eighth Avenue New York, NY 10018pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/look-ma-no-hands-operating-a-laptop-with-eyes-only/?pagemod 2/2