You will gaze at your computer, and your computer will gaze back. That’s the inevitable path of progress in interface design, as evidenced by ongoing projects from companies like Leap Motion, Umoove, pmdtechnologies and more. Now, Sweden’s Tobii Technology is taking a step forward with its own approach, via a prototype ultrabook design created in partnership with touchpad company Synaptics.
The notebook will incorporate Tobii’s eye-tracking tech with Synpatics’ touch sensitive input methods to preview how the two can be used together to further the cause of new input methods. The purpose of the project is to showcase to OEMs how they might be able to use the same tech in their own products. Tobii and Synaptics will be touring with a roadshow of the prototype devices throughout July and August, showing off exactly how the two technologies work in tandem.
For Tobii, which has been showing off its Tobii Gaze technology since its introduction last year (and which was in development for many years before that in some form or another), this is a chance to finally start getting eye-tracking built-in to more mainstream devices. There’s been a lot of attention paid to how gaze tracking is a part of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 device, and other startups like Umoove are trying to market their own products to other consumer electronics makers, so the time is right for a major sales push.
Partnering with Synaptics is a good way to hitch Tobii’s wagon to a player with strong existing relationships with virtually every Windows PC manufacturer, as well as makers of mobile devices. The touchpad company has been in business for a long time, and survived the transition from cruder, simpler pressure-based input mechanisms to the more sensitive capacitive and hybrid systems now in place in most modern devices. Synaptics will be using the prototype to shop around its own ForcePad solution, a new product offering that incorporates per-finger pressure detection into the mix for even greater sensitivity.
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The jury’s still out on whether any one company will dominate gaze detection and eye tracking the same way that Synaptics has done for touch-based input on PCs, but clearly Tobii (which raised $21 million from Intel last year) is making a play for the crown.
“We expect consumers will start seeing product options like this one in stores as early as sometime next year,” Tobii VP of Business Development told us via email. This push likely means we’ll see a lot of familiarly named PC makers trot out this kind of tech (or some kind of motion detection) in their prototype products and concepts at CES next year, so keep an eye out for that, and for the Tobii name.