I don’t have binocular vision. I see with one eye, in other words. I was born that way, so it’s not like I know any different; it’s kinda like being a pirate without the hedonistic lifestyle or cool eyepatch. In a world where 3D, VR and eye-tracking systems are the latest fads, that means I can end up a little behind the times. I’m thankful that the 3DS has an option to disable the top screen’s 3D effects, for instance, because that’s a one-way trip to migraine city if I try to use it. Yuck. I’m told I’m not really missing much most of the time when it comes to all of those things, but it can suck to reflect on entire concepts that simply aren’t ever going to work for me.
Nowhere has that been more obvious than while traversing the floor of the 2015 International CES, which was basically “The Latest Tech Fads: The Show.” I’m not the type to let that kind of thing get me down, though. Instead, I made it one of my goals at CES to try as many forms of eye-tracking as possible. Inclusion is big right now, right? If I could find just one eye-tracking system that worked for someone that only uses a single eye, then clearly that’s the best of the lot. Made sense to me.
So I wandered the show floors, trying solutions and speaking to representatives from companies near and far. Sony couldn’t do it. Snail Games couldn’t do it. Oculus couldn’t do it. My condition isn’t the most common thing so I wasn’t really all that surprised, but the Oculus thing hurt a bit after my esteemed colleague Grayson Hamilton basically creamed his pantaloons over it. I’m trapped in the real world, apparently, which sucks because it’s a scary place. Failures ranged from PR reps saying that their solution probably wasn’t going to work to attempts at demoing the system to me, then watching as it died miserably. Time and time again I looked all over a little screen to attempt a calibration. No dice. The struggle was real.
I had almost abandoned my hopes of finding an eye-tracking solution that would work for me. Had my hubris finally been my downfall? Had I come too close to perfection by being such a badass, only now to face the agony of never being able to use the latest gimmicky control system? Despair almost set in…but then I met The Eye Tribe, a Denmark-based private company focusing on making eye-tracking systems more affordable, at ShowStoppers.
The demo went about the same as the rest at first. I introduced myself, offered a business card, explained that I was going around testing eye-tracking systems because I lacked the appropriate faculties to use them and breaking demo stations is hilarious. They agreed to humor me. The stage was set for failure…and at first, failure’s exactly what we got. The most current version of the Eye Tribe software crashed horrifically as it attempted to make out what the hell my eyes were doing. That was that, apparently.
Eye Tribe representative Sebastian Sztuk wasn’t going to give up, though. He booted up an older version of the software which struggled mightily to make sense of my zany vision. It crashed again. Sztuk was having none of that. He said it looked like it worked regardless and booted up Fruit Ninja. He told me to look all over the screen, controlling the fruit-slicing blade with my eyes.
To my amazement, it worked. I looked around, the blade sliced the fruit, there was a bunch of noise but who cared, I had never seen anything like this before. I grinned like an idiot because holy crap, IT WORKED. This was the future right in front of my eyes…er, eye. And it worked. I might have been the best PR they got that evening because my mind was blown. There’s a whole different world out there I haven’t gotten to experience…well, okay, it was Fruit Ninja that was difficult to control and only sort of worked, but it that was enough.
So I can say with no hesitation whatsoever that The Eye Tribe has got the best eye-tracking solution out there today based solely on the fact that it’s the only one that did anything when I used it. A low bar? Sure. But there’s people out there with health-related needs for whom eye-tracking software might be more than just a cute gimmick. That makes it a low bar that more developers should be trying to make it over.
Maybe a little company from Denmark is going to lead the way.