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CES 2014

Can Your Eyes Replace Touch on Mobile?



Capacitive touch was a disruptive technology on smartphones when the iPhone debuted in 2007 as it didn’t require a stylus and offered a fluid experience without requiring users to apply pressure into the display with their fingernails. Now, companies are looking ahead to not only applying touch to new forms, but also to the eyes for navigating a mobile smartphone.

We’ve seen eye tracking technology used in simple ways in the past. On select Samsung and LG smartphones, front-facing cameras and sensors on the device would detect if you’re looking at the device and prevent it from auto-dimming or shutting off. Video playback would also automatically pause and resume based on if the device could detect your face. However, at CES, a company called Eye Tribe was also on hand to show off how eye tracking could enhance and improve your mobile experience.

With a camera that plugs into a micro USB port on your Android phone, Eye Tribe could track your gaze to allow you to navigate your phone. Eye Tribe says that only an IR light emitter is needed so this technology could potentially be embedded in your next phone or tablet.

eyetribeEye tracking will allow you to also play games, and the company was showing off eye tracking used to slash fruit on the popular game Fruit Ninja.

There are other use cases as well. For example, you can scroll through a webpage. Advertisers could also potentially use this technology to see which ads consumers are interested in and are viewing. It could track engagement with apps more easily.

The benefit here is that your hands would be free to do other tasks. In the kitchen, if you’re cooking and need to scroll through a recipe, this could be a convenient way to interact with your phone or tablet without having to touch the screen with greasy hands.

Other tools being shown off at CES that revolve around your eyes include the VOXX myris security tool that scans your iris to authenticate you. Iris scanning technology is said to be much more accurate and with fewer positives in identifying the user than the fingerprint method that’s used today, including the TouchID system that Apple uses on the iPhone 5s.

Still, we’re seeing touch being expanded as well. The Galaxy Note 4 is said to have more touch surfaces on the sides of the phone so users don’t need to touch and dirty their screens. Cases like the Sensus touch case are adding more touch surfaces to existing devices, like the iPhone.

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