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Tobii eyeX review: The 'eye mouse' is magical, but just not for everyone

Mark Hachman | Feb. 18, 2016
This is a case where we love the technology more than the product.

What if you simply could move your cursor to where you wanted, automatically, without your hands ever leaving the keyboard? Tobii’s eye-tracking technology sounds like magic, yet doesn’t quite live up to the promise.

Keyboard shortcuts, trackpads, and thumb mice were all invented to solve one problem: how to keep your hands on your keyboard, typing away, while your focus drifts from screen to screen or icon to icon. Normally, your hand would move a mouse or trackpad to push your cursor around the screen. Tobii’s eyeX eye-tracking technology tries to cut out the middleman: It bounces near-infrared light off your retinas to produce patterns that the eyeX sensors capture and interpret. Tap a key on your keyboard, and your cursor leaps to the spot. 

Doesn’t that sound amazing? And if you’re one of the group of people born with eyes that the eyeX adores, then the $139 eyeX sensor is probably accurate enough to replace your mouse. It also adds Windows Hello capabilities to Windows 10 PCs, and provides an extra dimension to your PC games. But there are some gotchas, too: The eyeX’s accuracy varies from user to user, and the sensor bar works with just a single monitor. Because the eyeX also bonds to that monitor semi-permanently, it makes the eyeX a purchase that you may not be able to return. 

[Editor’s Note: At press time, the eyeX was sold out until mid-March.]

A rather permanent solution

Setting up the eyeX is relatively intuitive. The eyeX is a 0.8 x 0.6 x 12.5-inch sensor bar, which connects to your computer via a short USB 3.0 cable. (If you use a USB mouse and keyboard, make sure you have enough available ports.) There’s also a small metallic mount, which the sensor bar “grabs” magnetically.

The Tobii eyeX mount blends into your monitor, but it’s also pretty much stuck there for good.

That’s the first catch: On the back of the mount is an adhesive strip—more like super glue than tape, unfortunately. The backing needs to be strong enough to securely hold the 0.2-pound sensor bar, and Tobii says that, once installed, the mount will be “permanently” bonded. Fortunately, Tobii’s installation software includes an on-screen guide that helps ensure the mount is positioned properly, on widescreen monitors sized up to 27 inches. Bonding the metal strip to a desktop monitor shouldn’t affect it (unless it covers up the monitor’s controls), but I definitely wouldn’t recommend mounting the eyeX to a Surface or a laptop, where the sensor would likely block display area. 

Once installed, the eyeX magnetically clicks on to the mount, watching you with its three infrared eyes. It connects to your PC via a USB 3.0 cable that supplies power.

 

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