Keeping its promise of empowering 'every person and organisation to achieve more', Microsoft has added eye-tracking capabilities into the latest insider build of Windows 10.
According to the Redmond giant, the functionality, called Eye Control, will help people suffering from neuromuscular diseases and other disabilities use Windows 10. It would let them operate a mouse to launch apps and keyboard to type out words just by focusing eyes on the subject for some time. Best described, the feature would be the newest way to interact with a computer, alongside keyboard, mouse, pen, and touch.
But, like most high-end features on Windows 10, Eye Control is not supposed to work without compatible hardware. The feature requires an external eye-tracker, which Microsoft has delivered by collaborating with Tobii, a pioneer in gaming dedicated eye-trackers. Currently, the beta version of Eye Control works with Tobii 4C, but soon, the feature will get support for existing Tobii eye-trackers like Dynavox PCEye Mini, PCEye Plus, EyeMobile Plus and the I-series.
"Adding native eye tracking support to Windows 10 is a key milestone in our mission to make this technology part of our everyday devices," said Henrik Eskilsson, CEO of Tobii, in a statement to VentureBeat. "Through integration with Microsoft's operating system, it becomes possible over time to realise robust eye tracking implementations that add a range of user benefits. This collaboration clearly shows the value of eye gaze input and is a big step forward on the long-term journey to drive high-volume adoption of eye tracking".
Microsoft got the idea of embedding eye-tracking capabilities into Windows 10 from its first employee hackathon – One Week – in 2014. The winning entry in the contest, the Eye Gaze Wheelchair, pushed the company to put together a research team dedicated to exploring eye-tracking technology and its benefits to people suffering from ALS and other diseases.
Microsoft's Windows team started prototyping new eye tracking scenarios together, and as the results were promising, CEO Satya Nadella announced its integration into Windows 10.
It's still unknown when Eye Control will be available to the general public, but given the feature has already been included in the latest insider build, it is highly plausible that Microsoft will add eye-tracking next year with its March Windows 10 update.