Is Eye-Tracking Technology Consumer-Ready?

by Istvan Fekete on March 14, 2013

Surfing the Web, playing games, and navigating maps on your phone with your eyes is one of the highly anticipated features of the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is about to be unveiled to the public today in New York. While it does sound amazing that you won’t need the usual touch interaction with your phone to achieve something, how does this feature actually perform?

The technical background: Eye-tracking uses the front facing camera to look at the motion of a user’s peepers, and follows them whenever they move Thus the device perceives where the mobile user is looking and is able to respond to a set of behaviours such as an intentional movement to scroll a Web page, or a long, purposeful blink to achieve a click.

It turns out that this type of technology was researched for desktop computing well before it reached the smaller-screen smartphones, and it has already been demoed for a defined set of actions: zooming in and out, pausing a video by looking away from a screen, and by playing games.

To get an idea of what this technology means, see this video demonstrating the eye-tracking technology in action.

While I don’t want to say this isn’t what we are going to see with the Samsung Galaxy S4, if it does indeed integrate eye-tracking technology, you get the picture. It’s like Samsung’s phoning with the Galaxy Note 8: while the user experience could be good, you still look funny from outside.

The eye-tracking technology — given its current development — as even Bloomberg’s sources have pointed out, isn’t ready in its advanced form to reach the customer. It could arrive with some basis features such as pausing a video by looking away from the phone’s screen, though.

Secondly, the accuracy of the technology: Since we are in the early days of this technology, the software could be far from perfect, so commanding the screen with a look, won’t be accurate most of the time. Just think about Apple’s Siri or Samsung’s S Voice personal assistants.

The technology has other issues as well: Using it in public triggers awkward moves — for watchers — and there is also the question of battery life, among others, as the phone’s camera needs to be awake to keep an eye on you.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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