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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.

Our eyeX accuracy test results. 

Given that the eyeX bounces light off your eye, I suspected the eyeX would perform better when used by users with a larger target area: i.e., large eyes. The accuracy scores from a pair of female coworkers seemed to support that theory—in fact, one of them recorded just about a perfect score. But as you can see from the results, that wasn’t necessarily the case across the board. There’s really too much variation in the data for me to feel confident going beyond that one sweeping generalization, and it’s nearly impossible to say how the eyeX will work with your eyes.

A different look at games

Tobii also recommends the eyeX for use with games, which require support for the eyeX. I tried out Assassin’s Creed: Rogue, Son of Nor, and theHunter: Primal. (A list of other supported games includes Day Z, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and others.)

A game like Assassins’ Creed doesn’t require the fine control of a first-person shooter, and it was here I had my most immersive experience, navigating simply by looking at where I wanted to go. During certain scenes the camera allowed me to look where I wanted, or focus on a specific character. That's when I felt most like I was in the game.

Still, most of the time playing with the eyeX felt like I was “driving” the character with my eyes, sometimes steering my character out from behind a tree by looking at the sides of the screen. Your gaze naturally tends to wander while playing a game, and normally this isn’t an issue. But with the eyeX, you can quickly find yourself wandering back and forth. That’s not a deal-breaker, though I was happy to return to the familiar mouse and keyboard.

The eyeX also didn’t quite provide the control I hoped for. Some console games, like the Grand Theft Auto series, provide “aim assist,” where the game will lock on an opponent provided you move the targeting reticule in range. Such an arrangement seems tailor-made for the Tobii eyeX. 

In general, I feel the same way about the Tobii eyeX as I did the original Lytro camera: Tobii has crafted an intriguing concept that hasn’t quite coalesced into a worthwhile product. Even if you get past the accuracy issues, restricting the eyeX to a single monitor is a serious limitation. Perhaps a line of monitors with embedded sensors is the solution.

Here’s the deal: If Tobii wants to replace a tried-and-true peripheral like the mouse, the eyeX needs to be really, really good. For everyone. Granted, Tobii is positioning the eyeX as a sort of a quasi-pointing device/gaming peripheral/Windows Hello access device—and if that’s an attractive mix, then the eyeX may be for you. In general, though, it’s a bit of a wager—eye tracking might work wonderfully with your eyes, or it might not. Tobii’s technology, though, implicitly promises a future where your gaze will replace your mouse. And as fantastic as that sounds, that future is still some ways off.

 

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