The touchless smartwatch you control with your eyes
Could the future of smartwatches be touchless? Watch this space…
Sync your smartwatch with your phone and you can quickly access notifications, messages and alerts when you’re on the go.
Now researchers have made them even more convenient to use, by developing a hands-free smartwatch you can control with your eyes. The watch uses eye tracking software to follow your natural eye movements, which trigger commands in the same way pressing a button would.
So how does the tech behind it work? We take a look and show you some of the other ways eye tracking is being used.
Why have researchers developed a touchless smartwatch?
Researchers at the University of Lancaster designed the watch as a hands-free alternative to existing smartwatches. With it, you’ll be able to control your device just by looking at it.
Eye tracking software itself is not new – the difference is that this model is based on your natural eye movements, making it easier and more intuitive for you to use.
How does it work?
The watch uses an innovative control system called Orbits to track the way your eye moves around when you look at the screen. With it you can access your notifications, call log and navigate apps.
When you look at the screen, you’ll see a small dot moving around which you focus on to make a command – think of it as pressing a button with your eye. This will open up a list of options for you to scroll through, much like you would by using your index finger on a touch screen.
You can make multiple commands on one screen by following different dots. To avoid confusion or pressing the wrong command, these all move at different speeds.
Right now it’s still in development – and you have to wear a head-mounted camera to control it. But researchers are thinking ahead to when smartwatches have high-quality inbuilt cameras for a truly hands-free experience.
How else is the tech being used?
As eye tracking software becomes more accessible and cheaper to develop, we’re seeing more ways in which we’ll be able to use it.
It’s also becoming more intuitive for the user. Whereas in the past eye tracking software required you to stare at a button to launch a command, it’s a lot more natural for our eyes to follow circular motions.
Companies like Haier have showcased TV sets that work with eye tracking headsets in recent years, although the tech isn’t mainstream yet.
From what we’ve seen, eye tracking could be used to change channels, adjust the volume and tweak the settings on your TV – so you’ll never have to scramble about for lost remotes again.
It could improve your viewing experience, too. Samsung are working on bringing out a technology that recognises when you’re squinting at the TV and zooms in accordingly.
Some researchers have pointed out that the software could be used to make driving safer by reducing the amount of time you spend manually controlling the car – and taking your eyes off the road.
Instead, eye tracking would be able to follow your eye movements and make commands, so you stay more focused on what’s in front of you. So far, early prototypes have used a headset like Google glass to achieve this.
Eye tracking software may be included in future versions of Oculus Rift – Facebook’s VR headset launching this year – which could enhance the way you interact with it and give you a more immersive experience.
At the moment there’s no official word from Oculus, but several developers have created add-ons for the headset that include eye tracking.
Software developer Tobii has created an add-on that enables eye tracking on compatible PC games that you buy from its app store. The controller is a slim box you place under your computer monitor.
One of the most well-known games you can play is Assassin’s Creed. Use the Tobii software to adjust your view of the game by looking at the screen or pause by taking your eyes off the action.
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