Swedish firm unveils eye-controlled laptop

AFP/The Local
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Swedish firm unveils eye-controlled laptop

A Swedish company has revealed the world's first eye-controlled laptop computer, allowing users to switch between windows and scroll through documents in the blink of an eye.


The eye-controlled laptop prototype, which features technology developed by Sweden-based Tobii Technology, was on display for the first time on Tuesday at the CeBIT technology fair in Hannover, Germany.

"It's definitely going to be in the laptops of the future," said Anders Olsson from Tobii told AFP.

"You can do pretty much anything you would do with your normal laptop.

"We've been stuck for a quarter of a century with a keyboard and a mouse. It's time to move to the next step and eye control technology is the perfect solution."

Developed in cooperation with computer manufacturer Lenovo, the laptop marks an important step in bringing eye-tracking technology into consumer products, according to Tobii CEO Henrik Eskilsson.

"More than anything else, the Tobii laptop prototype is proof that our eye tracking technology is mature enough to be used in standard computer interfaces," he said in a statement.

The technology, which was first developed out of research carried out in 2001 at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) in Stockholm, makes it possible for computers to know exactly where users are looking.

The technology is already used in other areas, including in car safety where a sensor tracks eye movement to determine whether the driver is drowsy, and in helping paralysed people operate everyday objects just with their eyes.

However, this is the first time it has been applied to a laptop.

When looking at a laptop equipped with Tobii's technology, users can use their eyes zoom in and centre images, switch between various windows, and scroll through documents.

The technology can also help increase battery life by automatically dimming the laptop's screen when it recognises that no eyes are looking at it.

While the eye-tracking technology isn't meant to replace the traditional mouse and keyboard entirely, it can make computer use more efficient.

“We anticipate that people will be extremely excited to be able to control their computer with their eyes,” said Barbara Barclay, general manager of Tobii North America in a statement.

So far, Lenovo has built 20 prototype laptops outfitted with Tobii's technology, although it may "a couple of years" before before eye-controlled laptops hit the broader consumer market, Olsson told AFP.

In the meantime, Tobii hopes the laptop prototype demonstration at CeBIT will open more people's eyes to the possibilities presented by the company's technology.

"What we find most exciting are the opportunities that eye control as part of natural user interfaces offer consumer electronics manufacturers in a range of product categories," said Barclay.

"We look forward to working with our partners to find many exciting ways to share and integrate this technology to advance their work."


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