Hands-on Tobii Rex's Windows 8 eye-controller

Using your eyes to navigate Windows 8 is nearly ready for sale with a new, smaller dongle from Tobii called the Rex that the company showed at CES 2013.

LAS VEGAS--In the near future, you'll be able to navigate through Windows 8 using little more than your eyes.

Tobii has shrunk its Windows 8 eye-controller down to a portable size and name, calling it the Rex, here at CES 2013. Not only is the peripheral smaller, it's also much more effective than it was at last year's CES.

The new Rex is small enough to sit on your laptop between the monitor and keyboard. It can also comfortably attach to the bottom of most desktop monitors. More interesting than its rectangular design, though, is the fact that it lets you navigate through Windows 8 with just your eyes and a single keystroke.

Once Tobii CEO Henrik Eskilsson and I calibrated the Rex to my eyes, a 30-second process that involved looking at a dot as it moved across the screen, I was able to open apps, scroll through messages, and zoom in on maps just by looking.

Well, not quite "just" by looking. The procedure involved not only where I was looking, but hitting a remapped key on my keyboard or using the scroll wheel. I can definitely see how this could be much faster for getting around Windows 8 on an older computer that didn't have a touch screen, although Eskilsson said that he thinks it can help people navigate better on touch-screen desktops, too.

Utility aside, the Rex was reasonably effective. A few times it opened the app below where I was looking, but overall it was surprisingly accurate. I was able to scroll through e-mails, open apps, and scroll up and down in Internet Explorer 10. The coolest thing that the Rex let me do was look at a specific location on Bing Maps and then zoom in on it. As I changed my point of focus, the map changed where it was zooming in.

Along with the Rex, Tobii is building a developer's kit so that people can build their own apps that take advantage of the Rex hardware. The full kit will retail for $995 later this year, followed by only about 5,000 units of the sticklike Rex for consumers sometime before the end of the year. Eskilsson said that his company has not decided yet on pricing for the consumer version.

 

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