Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Eye Opening Devices

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) opened with a slew of audio visual treats from all the usual suspects and appeared to cover a diverse range of new and emerging technologies.  The trick is to look out for similar  technologies being used in different areas because that's a sign of things that will stick.

We've all seen the crazy but desirable ideas that probably won't be a deal maker.  If you read my post the other day then you'll know where I stand on the innovative use of 3D TV technology being proposed by Samsung.

Read it here: Two Faced TV

But there's been a number of manufacturers showing at CES this year that are looking at harnessing eye control.  The technology isn't new; the military have used it in limited form in very controlled environments such as fighter cockpits, where the human workload can be excessive.

Chinese technology manufacturer Haier has demonstrated a TV that can be operated by eye control. No more fishing down the back of the sofa, I guess, unless you're in the habit of rolling your eyes.  They're not even putting their feet up at that demonstration as they say they have thought control TV just around the corner.  I'm not sure I'd be safe watching a TV that knew what I was thinking.  That's why I'm not allowed to hold the remote at home.

But you've probably not heard of Haier.  How about  Tobii Technology?  In case you're struggling a little, it's a swedish company. Like Volvo, just a little less well known.  They're proposing we carry out basic Windows operations using eye control.  The concept is that the operations involving the mouse, touchscreens and keyboards are further enhanced by zooming, scrolling and opening windows with the eyes.  The demos are pitched at Windows 8 machines that are incorporating the touchscreen technology but it seems likely that it will be of even more use to future tablet devices that are, of course, already missing an external keyboard.  And mouse, come to think of it.

Which is why Google, at last a name you recognise, has been patenting designs for eye tracking and control for a little while.  Early demo images look similar to something that Gordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation might wear, as compared to Tobii's approach which sits in front of the monitor, a bit like the Kinect, but with a lot less arm waving.

But eye control has to be a contender to push the usability of tablet and other computer devices.  We're stretching the capabilities of touch screen controls, having exhausted our finite amount of digits until evolution catches up, voice control is making inroads in fits and starts - Siri cracks me up more often than produces a useful response, Google's voice control does seem to work a little better - so eye control is a great augmenting tool that evolution has already provided us with.

On-line bingo might prove challenging, though.  Eyes down, anyone?


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