After I shelled out something like $200 for a Kinect bundle that I ended up shoving in a closet, the team at 4tiitoo may have finally given me a reason to dig the thing out. The Munich-based company recently kicked off a Kickstarter campaign to let Kinect owners control their PCs with little more than some subtle glances, thanks to a $50 add-on they’re calling the eyeCharm.
But first, a bit of back story — 4tiitoo is the company behind NUIA, a software suite that makes it possible for PCs to interpret eye movements and staring as valid inputs. 4tiitoo has shown off a slew of applications that have been modified to accept this new kind of input, from eye-tracking versions of games like Angry Birds and perennial geek favorite Minecraft to utilities like VLC Media Player.
So far, though, those eye-friendly apps have mostly been demoed with pricey hardware courtesy of the Swedish camera buffs at Tobii. They’re not exactly meant for consumer use, so crafting a reasonably inexpensive add-on for a popular console accessory is a rather savvy move.
Speaking of the add-on, the eyeCharm itself is actually rather modest — it’s essentially a large plastic clip that sticks onto the Kinect to provide “the necessary optics and special infrared illumination” to properly track people’s eyes. Once the included setup software has been run, users can attempt to navigate Windows 7 or 8 (Windows 8 and some of its touch-tailored UI elements seems to be easier to deal with), or fire up some of the included NUIA-enabled apps that backers get as part of the deal.
More importantly, all but the cheapest backers get access to the NUIA SDK, so they can (hopefully) get cracking on the next generation of eye-tracking PC apps. 4tiitoo is looking to collect a total of $100,000 in funding and is currently hovering just under $10,000 in contributions after two days.
I’ll be the first to admit that Microsoft’s original vision of full-body gaming is one that hasn’t yet been fully realized, but the Kinect has emerged as an intriguing tool for developers and entrepreneurs alike — startups like Personify and Disrupt Battlefield alum Kinobi were quick to embrace the technology, and Microsoft has sought to nurture those Kinect-centric ventures. If some particularly sticky rumors hold true, the next Xbox will be so reliant on the Kinect concept that an upgraded Kinect will come with each console, so 4tiitoo’s vision for reshaping how the masses interact with computers could become a reality sooner rather than later.