For those of you who have found the touch controls of the Windows 8 interface troublesome, Tobii has a new approach for navigating your computer. According to Engadget, Tobii is launching Rex, an eye-tracking camera that can be used to control a machine running the latest Microsoft OS.
The eye-tracking technology will work with the full range of Windows 8 computers, from tablets to hybrid laptops to desktops. About the size of a pen, the USB-connected camera attaches to the bottom of your monitor. Rex is meant to be used with a trackpad and mouse, so you won’t be able to toss those in the trash just yet. The mouse gives a greater degree of control over the clicking and selection, but your eyes do most of the broad navigational motions. The product is built on Tobii’s Gaze UI, which debuted similar features of eye control for a proprietary Windows 8 laptop last year.
The bar-shaped Rex bears more than a passing resemblance to Microsoft’s Kinect. The Kinect has been touted as a tool for the military and for doctors, but it seems unlikely that Microsoft hasn’t considered the potential to link up the motion sensor with its own computers. In fact, Surface general manager Panos Panay said during an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit that Microsoft used Xbox 360 controllers with the Surface tablet, but had not tested out Kinect for that purpose. With the extra competition from Tobii to push Windows 8′s navigation into new territory, perhaps the Microsoft crew will be more interested in developing alternative approaches to controls.
Rex is currently only available as a special edition for developers at a price of $995 through the company’s website. Tobii said it anticipates making 5,000 consumer units available later this year. The price point for the consumer model will need to be significantly cheaper because, despite the serious coolness factor, the audience for a Windows 8-only device is pretty limited. It will be interesting to see if and when similar eye control setups appear for other computer models and operating systems.