While IFA 2012 may be thought of primarily as a venue for electronics manufacturers to unveil their latest products, it’s also a chance for them to showcase technologies that they’re still developing. An example of the latter is the prototype eye-controlled TV, created by Chinese electronics firm Haier. We had a chance to try it for ourselves, on the trade show floor in Berlin.
While the TV itself is made by Haier, its eye-tracking technology was developed by Tobii – the same company that has brought us an eye-controlled laptop, a mousing system, and even an Asteroids arcade game.
The TV’s eye-tracking system needs to be calibrated for each user, before they can use it. This involves visually tracking an orange dot as it moves around the screen, without moving your head. According to Gizmag’s James Holloway, who served as our guinea pig, this is a lot harder than it might sound.
As the user follows the dot, a sensor bar facing them tracks their eye movements. Once the system is calibrated, that user can then use their eyes to control the TV – they simply look at control icons in one corner of the screen, and blink to select between them. Again, as with the calibration process, they have to keep their head still while doing so.
James found the volume adjustment particularly tricky, as it involves looking at specific buttons for “volume up” and “volume down.” Having already activated the television’s “Volume Control Mode,” he wondered why the user couldn’t then simply look left or right to bring the volume up or down.
Perhaps that might be addressed in subsequent incarnations of the system, as it is still very much in the prototype stage. In a future version of the system, Haier reportedly plans on integrating the eye-tracking sensor directly into the TV.
Although the technology is challenging to use at this point, James tells us that is definitely does work, which is an impressive feat in and of itself.