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Tobii Eye Tracker 4C hands-on: Mousing with your eyes has surprising potential for gaming

Mark Hachman | Dec. 20, 2016
Eye tracking is a luxury not everyone needs, but when it works, it works.

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For me, at least, some of the 4C’s options were overkill. 

Using the same Surface Book I’d used previously, I tested Ubisoft’s just-released Watch Dogs 2, a third-person open-world shooter, as well as the much slower-paced Elite: Dangerous. Both promised that I’d be able to use eye tracking to quickly target enemies onscreen. Elite promised something else, too: a beta form of head tracking. Version 2.5 of Tobii’s software, published this week, specifically adds support for that new feature.

Elite: Dangerous has you flying a ship across a virtual galaxy. The game features long stretches of dull, monotonous travel punctuated by frantic ship-to-ship battles. Elite already allows deep configuration options, and Tobii does the same.

In Elite: Dangerous, you can configure head tracking and eye tracking controls independently. Head tracking focuses on the location of your head and adjusts the onscreen image according to its rotation, in addition to tracking your eyes. This is simpler than it sounds: If you turn your head toward your right shoulder, your gaze is dragged along with it. Just looking left doesn’t necessarily rotate your head, but Tobii’s software gives you the option to configure it that way. As experienced in the game, head tracking allows you to whip your field of view around quite quickly, while eye tracking moves more gradually.

Adding Tobii Eye Tracker 4C is somewhat useful. Tracking a bogey with your eyes as it zooms by your cockpit is a natural reaction, and the 4C eye tracker allows you to do so naturally. On the other hand, the software automatically triggered “popup” instrument panels as my gaze slid over them, which became annoying fast.

I had better luck with Watch Dogs 2, a much more modern game which the Book struggled to run, generating 20-odd frames per second at low frame rates. Here, Tobii promised explicit support, including “gaze to shoot” options that would fire my character’s gun at the target I was looking at.

Most of the other gaze options worked fine. My character was able to zip from cover point to cover point as I looked, and interact with whatever objects my gaze landed on. From this standpoint, the 4C came in handy, allowing me an additional degree of freedom that i would have otherwise lacked. The ability to shoot where I looked, though, was problematic: When my character pulled his gun, the “gaze to shoot” option changed my perspective suddenly—I could be facing one way, but then my perspective could instantly rotate 45 degrees or so. And it wasn’t perfectly accurate, either. It all felt very artificial, and I still preferred my trusty mouse.

 

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