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Eye tracking within Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update is an assistive technology with potential

Microsoft’s Eye Control for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update offers up a noble goal: controlling your PC with your eyes, using a feature called Eye Control in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. And it works, mostly.

Eye tracking has quietly emerged as an alternative to the mouse, led by companies like Tobii. The concept is simple enough: Sensors within an eye tracker bar you mount on your monitor “watch” your gaze, guessing pretty accurately what you’re looking at. Though Tobii sees eye tracking as a tool for productivity and gaming, Microsoft currently sees it as a purely assistive feature, rather than a productivity tool.

We’ve reviewed two generations of eye-tracking hardware from Tobii—Eye Control was specifically designed for its latest eye tracker, the Tobii 4C—which Tobii positioned first as a productivity assistant, then as a gaming peripheral. However, Microsoft designed Eye Control as a virtual replacement for both a traditional mouse and keyboard, specifically for those with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or other degenerative diseases.

tobii 4c eye tracker Mark Hachman / IDG

To enable eye tracking currently, you need to own a Tobii 4C, which mounts beneath a desktop monitor. In real life, the LED light output is dialed down considerably.

Eye Control setup is a snap

Besides the traditional mouse, keyboard, and PC, Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update doesn’t require any specialized hardware. Eye Control does. You’ll need a Tobii Eye Control 4C to enable it. Eventually, Eye Control will support the Tobii Dynavox PCEye Mini, PCEyePlus, EyeMobile Plus, and I-series, according to Microsoft. (Tobii hardware is also being built into some gaming notebooks like the MSI GT72S G Tobii-805, eliminating the need for a mounting strip.) In addition to tracking your eyes, an eye tracker also serves as a way to enable Windows Hello on PCs that don’t already support it, like desktops.

Essentially, the 4C works the same way as the earlier Tobii EyeX:  You mount the long, wand-shaped eye tracker on your monitor, plug it into an available USB port for power, and complete the short setup process. 

tobii eye tracker options Mark Hachman / IDG

Tobii’s eye tracker can quickly move your cursor around your screen, or alternatively can be used to switch between apps or virtual desktops.

It’s worth noting that Tobii has its own ideas about how eye tracking could be used within Windows. Tobii’s own native software can be configured so that your mouse “teleports” to the area to the screen that you’re gazing at, triggered by tapping a certain key or simply twitching your mouse. Tobii’s software can optionally be configured so that the cursor also “clicks” the portion of the screen that it lands on. In general, though, Tobii sees eye tracking as a supplement to your mouse, not as a replacement.

Windows, though, goes a step further. Once the eye tracker is installed, you can go into Settings Ease of Access Other Options and enable the beta eye-tracking feature. (Microsoft states that it doesn’t save or share eye-tracking data, incidentally.) Windows doesn’t require any training or configuration—toggle it on, and eye tracking immediately begins.

eye control setting eye control mouse Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Mark Hachman / IDG

Eye tracking is buried in Microsoft’s ease-of-use assistive settings.

Once Eye Control is turned on, a small box appears at the top of your screen, with four icons. The first, a pair of up and down arrows, simply relocates this navigational box to the top or bottom of your screen. The others—a keyboard, a dialog box, and some sort of a mouse/directional pointer—represent the Eye Control functions: a traditional keyboard, “shape writing,” and the mouse functionality.

Eye tracking within Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update is an assistive technology with potential

Microsoft’s Eye Control for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update offers up a noble goal: controlling your PC with your eyes, using a feature called Eye Control in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. And it works, mostly.

Eye tracking has quietly emerged as an alternative to the mouse, led by companies like Tobii. The concept is simple enough: Sensors within an eye tracker bar you mount on your monitor “watch” your gaze, guessing pretty accurately what you’re looking at. Though Tobii sees eye tracking as a tool for productivity and gaming, Microsoft currently sees it as a purely assistive feature, rather than a productivity tool.

We’ve reviewed two generations of eye-tracking hardware from Tobii—Eye Control was specifically designed for its latest eye tracker, the Tobii 4C—which Tobii positioned first as a productivity assistant, then as a gaming peripheral. However, Microsoft designed Eye Control as a virtual replacement for both a traditional mouse and keyboard, specifically for those with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) or other degenerative diseases.

tobii 4c eye tracker Mark Hachman / IDG

To enable eye tracking currently, you need to own a Tobii 4C, which mounts beneath a desktop monitor. In real life, the LED light output is dialed down considerably.

Eye Control setup is a snap

Besides the traditional mouse, keyboard, and PC, Windows 10’s Fall Creators Update doesn’t require any specialized hardware. Eye Control does. You’ll need a Tobii Eye Control 4C to enable it. Eventually, Eye Control will support the Tobii Dynavox PCEye Mini, PCEyePlus, EyeMobile Plus, and I-series, according to Microsoft. (Tobii hardware is also being built into some gaming notebooks like the MSI GT72S G Tobii-805, eliminating the need for a mounting strip.) In addition to tracking your eyes, an eye tracker also serves as a way to enable Windows Hello on PCs that don’t already support it, like desktops.

Essentially, the 4C works the same way as the earlier Tobii EyeX:  You mount the long, wand-shaped eye tracker on your monitor, plug it into an available USB port for power, and complete the short setup process. 

tobii eye tracker options Mark Hachman / IDG

Tobii’s eye tracker can quickly move your cursor around your screen, or alternatively can be used to switch between apps or virtual desktops.

It’s worth noting that Tobii has its own ideas about how eye tracking could be used within Windows. Tobii’s own native software can be configured so that your mouse “teleports” to the area to the screen that you’re gazing at, triggered by tapping a certain key or simply twitching your mouse. Tobii’s software can optionally be configured so that the cursor also “clicks” the portion of the screen that it lands on. In general, though, Tobii sees eye tracking as a supplement to your mouse, not as a replacement.

Windows, though, goes a step further. Once the eye tracker is installed, you can go into Settings Ease of Access Other Options and enable the beta eye-tracking feature. (Microsoft states that it doesn’t save or share eye-tracking data, incidentally.) Windows doesn’t require any training or configuration—toggle it on, and eye tracking immediately begins.

eye control setting eye control mouse Microsoft Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Mark Hachman / IDG

Eye tracking is buried in Microsoft’s ease-of-use assistive settings.

Once Eye Control is turned on, a small box appears at the top of your screen, with four icons. The first, a pair of up and down arrows, simply relocates this navigational box to the top or bottom of your screen. The others—a keyboard, a dialog box, and some sort of a mouse/directional pointer—represent the Eye Control functions: a traditional keyboard, “shape writing,” and the mouse functionality.

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