One of the next big things – something that can fairly be characterized as increasing convenience, enhancing health, a bit creepy or a bit of all three – is eye tracking.
Rumors are that the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is scheduled for launch Thursday in New York City, will include the technology. Crave reports that GSM Israel found screenshots showing an S4 feature called Smart Scroll. The technology is said to scroll when the sensor detects the viewers’ eyes moving to the edge of the screen and to lock the screen when the sensor detects evidence that the viewer’s attention is wandering. More details are available at T3.
The New York Times’ Bits column has a feature on uMoove, an Israeli startup that has been developing eye- and head-movement technology for three years. The company said it will be available to application makers soon. The story said that it is possible that uMoove actually is the technology supplier to Samsung. It seems that the technology – from uMoove or elsewhere – could disseminate quickly:
UMoove’s technology uses a front-facing camera to track head and eye movements, either separately or in combination. The technique can be used even with the low-resolution cameras found on cheap cellphones, Mr. Krispin said. Head tilts can control scrolling, and eye movements can control more precise actions like drawing shapes; staring at an object on the screen for a few seconds can select it. Another potential action is a head nod to hit “O.K.” to answer a command prompt.
Another company, 4tiitoo, is developing the NUIA EyeCharm, which would work with Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller, according to Time.
One of the early obstacles to the growth of television was that some people feared that they were being spied on by the cameras. As naïve as that thought was, it will be revisited – and with a lot more justification – as people’s bodies are used to prompt reactions from their gadgets.
The creepy feeling this may elicit from many should be moderated by the fact that close tracking of eye movements has great medical value. Fox’s Atlanta affiliate reports that tracking eye movements in minute detail can identify those in danger of Alzheimer’s disease years before more obvious symptoms become evident. The story says that research at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center says tracking in this way “can differentiate between someone with early-stage memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment, and someone with normal brain function.”
Likewise, researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine have tested a goggles-based device built by GN Otometrics called an electrocardiogram that can distinguish between vertigo and strokes. The RTT News story says that the device could eventually be used in conjunction with smartphones.
Tracking eye movements undoubtedly will cross the line for some people. It’s interesting, though, that the same invasive technology could end up providing significant wellness benefits. Indeed, it’s likely that the research done for the consumer uses will greatly accelerate those diagnostic applications.