We’ve got smartphone software that tracks eye movement. We have keyboards that allow you to just drag your finger over the screen, rather than tapping individual keys. Microsoft’s realized just what kind of potential there might be if we could tie those two technologies together, and in a new patent it discusses a system that uses eye-tracking to let users interact with virtual keyboards.
The idea’s just like swipe-based keyboard software, but instead of tracking the motion of your fingertip, the system tracks eye movement. As your glance moves from key to key, darting around and changing direction, a devices camera records its gaze, and with a little algorithm magic, Microsoft tries to work out just which keys you were looking at – and ultimately, what word you were attempting to construct.
Microsoft seems most excited about what this could mean for head-mounted systems like Google Glass – certainly, it makes a lot of sense for a display so close to your eye where direct touchscreen input isn’t a workable option. But in its patent application, Microsoft also talks about how this might work on all sorts of other screen types, including those on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Admittedly, we have our doubts about just how accurate, battery-friendly, and easy to use such an eye-based input method might be, but similar systems are already employed in medical fields for helping movement-restricted people communicate, and if this actually works well, it might be interesting to see just how it would function on mobile gadgets.