Microsoft is now testing Windows 10 Eye tracking and plans on releasing an early build of the technology as part of the Fall Creators Update.
The new feature, called Eye Control, is designed to allow people with disabilities the ability to control an on-screen mouse and keyboard with nothing more than their eyes. Combine that with the text-to-speech features and the voice controls and you have a powerful accessibility suite designed for people with disabilities.
On their official blog post, the Redmond-based company said, “Yesterday, we announced Eye Control, which makes Windows 10 more accessible by empowering people with disabilities to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech experience using only their eyes. The experience requires a compatible eye tracker, like the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C, which unlocks access to the Windows operating system to be able to do the tasks one could previously accomplish with a physical mouse and keyboard. We are starting by supporting the EN-US keyboard layout, and we are looking to expand to more keyboard layouts in the future. We are excited to release this experience as a beta and would love your feedback!”
So how does it work? For example, if you want to use the on-screen keyboard, all you have to do is focus on the characters you want and the software will take care of the rest. If that seems too complicated, you can use what they call shape writing. In this setup, you focus on the first letter and last letter of the word while just glancing at the letters in between and the software will figure out the word.
To learn more about the technology, check out the eyes on demo from Windows Central below:
Microsoft is working with additional vendors to bring the technology for Eye Control to even more devices, but not much else is known about what tech will be used with this new accessibility software.
To setup eye control, you will need access to the beta version of Windows, and then you follow these instructions on the Windows blog site:
Setting up Eye Control:
- Own or purchase a Tobii Eye Tracker 4C (Coming next will be support for Tobii Dynavox PCEye Mini, PCEyePlus, EyeMobile Plus, and I-series.)
- Download and update to Tobii’s Core eye tracking hot fix release 22.214.171.12458 and run calibration with your own profile
- Check for Windows Updates; the new Tobii Eye Tracker HIDClass Driver should be found on Windows Update and installed automatically.
- Make sure your Tobii eye tracker is connected to your PC and turn on Eye Control by going to Settings > Ease of Access > Other Options > Eye control.
Currently, there are a few issues, such as limited functionality in direct sunlight, device calibration issues, and, of course, limited hardware support. You can expect many of these issues to be figured out and fixed before the autumn update hits machines around the world.
All in all, this is an amazing feature for those with disabilities. I suspect that many people without disabilities may make use of this technology simply because it is so cool. Have you tried the beta? If so, let us know how well it works for you in the comments below.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.