Tobii demos gaze control of StarCraft II

Credit: Evan Ackerman/DVICE

It's no secret that we love Tobii's magical eye-tracking system. And seriously, what's not to love? With Tobii, your computer knows exactly where you're looking (practically down to the pixel), enabling intuitive and effortless interaction that's like nothing you've ever experienced before. Once you try it, you immediately understand that this is the future of computer interaction.

So, what can Tobii do for you? We've seen a few examples, but let's talk about what's really important: gaming. Specifically, StarCraft II, the newest member of arguably one of the most competitive multiplayer franchises in gaming history. For serious players, this is a game where speed and efficiency are the difference between winning and losing, and the sheer volume of actions that you're able to take per minute is a reliable way of differentiating amateurs from pros. At the 2013 Game Developer's Conference, Tobii demonstrated exactly what's possible when you're able to add a layer of eyeball control to StarCraft II, and even if you're just a casual gamer, the potential here should blow your mind.

Keep in mind that if the demo video seems, um, uneventful, that's because all Tobii demos are like this on video. The dude playing the game is controlling some of the functions by moving his eyeballs and pushing one single button, and nothing else. Tobii has got to be one of the most boring demos to watch, but that's part of the point: it's gloriously effortless for the user. Just listen to Fredrik Lindh from Tobii R&D explain to you what he's got going here, and if he can't get you excited about this tech, nobody can.

The thing to remember here is that all of these actions are entirely independent of the location of the mouse cursor. Effectively, you're getting a second cursor, controlled by wherever you look, to use at the same time as the mouse. For example, you can target a Psi Storm with your eyes while simultaneously using your mouse to select and move your High Templar to safety. And as Fredrik points out, when you move around the map with your gaze, your mouse never has to leave your units and your fingers never have to leave your hotkeys.

Getting all of this to work requires no modification of StarCraft itself. You can think of it sort of like having keyboard macros, where there's simply one additional layer of control running between you and the game. If you think about it, the possibilities for customization are virtually endless, for StarCraft or any other game you can think of. How about a first person shooter where you aim with your eyes? It gets even better, too, because if Tobii gets integrated directly into a game, instead of just living on top of it, the game will be able to tell exactly what you're looking at.

The next time you're playing any sort of immersive game, pay a little bit of attention to where you look versus where your cursor goes, which is the only piece of information that games currently have about your engagement. Tobii has actually done the research on this: the behavior of your cursor is almost entirely unrelated to what you're looking at in the game world. Once the game can watch you, and know what you're looking at and what you've seen, it can adapt itself, dynamically altering gameplay. Tobii has some ideas about where this might go, but the goal for the company is really to just get this hardware into the hands of developers and see what kinds of awesome things happen.

As far as the hardware itself goes, we've been told that we might start seeing some Tobii-integrated prototypes be early next year. That's soon, but it's not soon enough.

If you didn't get enough Tobii and StarCraft with our video, below is a slightly different implementation that Tobii showed at CeBIT earlier this year.

Via Tobii

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