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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.

We asked each tester to look at each successive word in red, then try to jump the cursor there using the Tobii eyeX eye tracker.

The eyeX does allow for this, though. The Settings menu includes an option to warp your cursor only after you’ve moved your finger on the trackpad. This eliminates all the swipe-swipe-swipe trackpad gestures that are usually required to move the cursor from one corner of the screen to the other, and allows the trackpad to just “land” the cursor where you want. 

As for overall performance, your mileage really will vary. A number of variables seem to affect how accurately the eyeX performs: the size and shape of your eye, its color, as well as the size of the “target” you’re trying to hit with your gaze. Werner also said that eyeX’s research found that individuals with thick bifocals or “droopy eyelids” also have a difficult time. 

In my own use, with a 24-inch BenQ 1080p monitor in my home office, I found the eyeX just slightly too inaccurate to be useful. My cursor would leap to within a word or two in a block of text, rather than a specific character, forcing me to move my mouse or my thumb. I fared a bit better bouncing between the large text fields on our content management page—but again, without quite the accuracy I was hoping for. 

In this test, we recorded what words our testers actually “hit” when aiming for the template.

I successfully navigated between tabs in my Chrome browser, though, perhaps because that was one of the few applications specifically named as compatible with the eye tracker. (I still occasionally closed tabs by accident, however.) Switching between the large ALT-TAB or Snap Assist icons via your gaze is also simple. 

Our Tobii eyeX accuracy template. For each circle, we asked each participant to “click” once below the line with the eyeX, then jump back to each circle, marking their “hit” with a dot marked with Microsoft Paint. This was performed ten times for each circle.

I suspected my experience with the Tobii eyeX was a subjective one, however, so I asked several of my colleagues—whose eye shapes varied, and some of whom wore glasses—to test out the eyeX themselves after creating their own eyeX profile. My test was a fairly simple one. I drew a series of progressively smaller target circles on the screen using Microsoft Paint, then asked my colleagues to click back and forth across the screen, aiming for each circle ten times in a row. A second test asked them to navigate to specific words in a page of text, recording where they ended up. You can see how they fared, along with a picture of their eye, in the tables on this page.

 

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