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What Will Apple Do With Swedish Eye-Tracking Technology? 170

andylim writes "An article on explores the possibility that Apple is gearing up to launch eye-tracking technology soon. Citing a patent filed in 2008 that mentions 'gaze vectors' and a recent purchase of units from a Swedish eye-tracking company, the author suggests that the inclusion of eye-tracking tech in the company's forthcoming tablet would be Jobs's magnum opus. 'What better flourish to a career that began with the popularization of windows, icons, mouse and pointer than to usurp them all?'"
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What Will Apple Do With Swedish Eye-Tracking Technology?

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  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:09PM (#30756248) Journal

    There are two main problems with eye tracking. First, your eyes are always moving. Second, they’re attracted to motion.

    Eye tracking, done correctly, would have to avoid both of these pitfalls. It would be possible, but tricky. It would have to differentiate between the constant motion of your eyes and deliberate motions that you wanted to make, or at least not be adversely affected by all of their unconscious movements. It would also need to avoid causing movement or changes on the screen that would draw your attention away from what you intended to look at.

    For instance, if a normal cursor was displayed at the detected position of your gaze, it would (A) obscure, (B) distract, and (C) float irritatingly away from your gaze if its positioning was even slightly miscalibrated.

  • by beefnog ( 718146 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:17PM (#30756350)
    It always seemed to me that the greatest benefit of tracking the position / geometry of a user's eyes would be for determining their focal point. The user will look at your information directly if it's needed, but if it was always in focus they will be less fatigued by constantly changing focal points. In handheld devices this would allow you to glance at your phone by bringing into your field of view without having to take your focus off the road / sidewalk. Refining the technology enough that people could use computers at work without having to have corrective lenses on / in would do wonders.
  • by dijjnn ( 227302 ) <bwthomas.cs@uchicago@edu> on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:23PM (#30756442)

    They're going to build an ebook reader app for their rumored tablet to kill the kindle & dominate the market. as Ramanujan once said for a famous one line proof, "Behold."

  • by symes ( 835608 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:23PM (#30756444) Journal
    This is very true - however our eye gaze is also attracted to things we find interesting. An interface that had that information could easily rearrange itself based upon where we were looking. For example, you could imagine a 4 by 4 grid, each cell linked to some app or document. the size of each cell would be in proportion to the time spent gazing at it... and as cell size increases different components/layers of information for each cell becomes visible. I'm sure the people of Apple could come up with something a little more tasty than that example, it's just an idea.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:36PM (#30756624)

    Full disclosure: I am a vision researcher who has worked with most of the available eyetracking systems on the market.

    I had not heard of the company, and a quick look at their product line tells me why not: their standalone systems are limited to 60hz/120hz depending on the model - this was good several years ago, but has been considerably eclipsed by other companies' designs (e.g. S-R Research's Eyelink hardware, which happily does 2000hz monocular tracking). It looks on par with ASL's Eye-trac gear, which has similar limitations.

    I would bet that Apple just bought a few of their systems to use in internal testing - I sincerely doubt that anyone there is using such slow gear for major research.

  • Re:the Eye-pod? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:44PM (#30756726) Journal
    These worthless wastes of life [] are already busy applying the idea to advertising. Who wouldn't want a billboard watching them?
  • by sznupi ( 719324 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @05:50PM (#30756800) Homepage

    There was a story some time ago about Apple patenting small, "hidden" in the screen cameras as a means of correcting eye contact issue that exists currently in videoconferences.

    Which really strikes me as another example of why patent system is badly broken in the US. Even I toyed some time ago with an idea of using small sensor / optical arrangement that minimizes size of the "camera", visible obstruction, so it can be placed in front of the screen without being too irritating. Hiding it between the pixels of LCD screen, when you have good enough manufacturing, seems to be just...a straightforward progression.

  • by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @06:14PM (#30757128)

    wired to a set of LCD glasses

    Are you still young enough to focus on things less than an inch from your eye? I suggest that you actually try it. You'll probably be surprised that you can't. This technology would have been here a decade ago if there was a mass market for it. There isn't.

  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Wednesday January 13, 2010 @07:15PM (#30757878) Homepage Journal

    Point is, they aren't changing the existing system, merely adding onto it.

    Right, I think I've posted here before wishing for a system that allows you to switch window focus with eye tracking - especially useful in a multi-monitor setup (I always get hosed up with that).

    But $7500 gear isn't the way to do this. Stereo cheap-ass CMOS 'webcam' sensors on the sides of the monitor and a whole bunch of GPU number crunching should do the work just fine (and also get us video conferencing where you can look at the 'center' of the screen (through still more processing) without really having to put any cameras into the screen.

    Cheap hardware + massive image processing seems to be winning nearly every fight.

No problem is so large it can't be fit in somewhere.