Microsoft invests in eye-tracking software

Microsoft is testing eye-tracking software in a bid to make its devices much more accessible for people with disabilities.

Eye-tracking is currently the best way for those with motor disabilities to use a computer – because it entirely removes the need for interaction with a physical mouse and keyboard. As such, Microsoft is looking to introduce new functionality – called Eye Control – to do just this on Windows 10.

Easy on the eye

The technology is simple in theory – if not a touch more complex in practice. Cameras installed on a computer track where a user is looking, then use this in lieu of a traditional pointer. From this point, it’s a relatively straightforward process to expand this out to register keystrokes on an on-screen keyboard, for example.

Though the process is simple there are still a number of hurdles to surmount. For example, a specific camera is needed to track eye movements, as pre-installed webcams are not sophisticated enough to manage it. As it stands, there is only one camera which can be used to effectively track eye movements in this way – that which is made by Swedish company Tobii.

Tobii has worked with Microsoft on the Eye Control project and said testing is “currently being finalised.” If all goes to plan, it could soon be rolled out on Acer, Alienware and MSi devices.

Eye-tracking functionality isn’t exclusively beneficial to those with disabilities, however. Tobii has also undertaken much work with the gaming community, to make virtual reality more responsive and realistic. As such, Eye Control could well be of benefit to a much wider Windows audience when it’s rolled out.

The issue of its roll out is likely a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ as Microsoft has already tested it at a Windows 10 ‘insider preview build’. This allows people from within the company test a new product – which is one of the final stages before a wider release.