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How I headbutted a mole and controlled the world with my eyes

Technically Incorrect: Just a few minutes using Eyefluence's eye-tracking technology turned me into someone very strange. Yes, even stranger.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


The machine knows what your eyes want to do.

Eyefluence/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

In my formative years, drug pushers would use the same line.

You don't know until you've tried it.

I'm therefore a touch leery when tech companies use it too.

Still, I succumbed last week when a company called Eyefluence suggested I put on a VR headset and try its eye-tracking technology. (CNET's Scott Stein last tried Eyefluence back in February.)

Yes, of course they served a perfectly decent Sauvignon Blanc. But that wasn't going to sway me. Instead, what moved me was the promise that I could control the world with my eyes.

I tried doing this in bars for years. I hoped that just through my gaze I could express my deepest intentions to all around. It tended not to work.

But Eyefluence, a startup created by serial entrepreneurs from companies such as Livescribe and Heartstream, promised that I'd be surprised.

No, that didn't sway me either. So they appealed to my mean-streets childhood roots.

"We'll let you play Whack-a-Mole with your head," the company's creative director Andy Hartzell told me.

Who could resist?

This was all, it appears, just to get me used to the idea of simple eye motions having devastating effects. At least, that's what I thought.

Eyefluence claims that its technology can detect the intention in your eyes and translate it immediately to augmented and virtual reality.

I donned the VR apparatus and perfected a move I'd first learned in Scotland so many years ago. (You're not familiar with the Glasgow Kiss?)

As I headbutted them, the moles went down like flies. Unlike flies, they came back up again. But I soon got the hang of it.

"You're ready," said Hartzell, with, to my ears, excessive confidence.

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So then I was transported to a virtual world where there was a globe and all sorts of apps just floating in the ether.

Eyefluence claims that its UI design makes it superior to rivals. I'd heard this one several times before too.

Still, I was told to simply look to a mark to the right if I wanted to activate anything.

At first, there's an element of surprise that you can make things happen by allowing your eyeballs to shift a tiny distance.

But there's a far greater disturbance. Your eyes start doing it without you thinking about it at all.

This was within the very first few minutes of just being left alone to try the technology out.

"Ooh, what's over there?" shrieked my eyes. And there they went, without me even realizing they were doing it.

Eyefluence executives say that the more people who try the technology, the more accurate their algorithms become.

Not everyone's eyes work the same way. Not everyone has a consistent pair of eyes.

Personally, I view the notion of wearing a mask on my head as I view the notion of wearing bright yellow hot pants. On my head.

Indeed, as I watched Eyefluence's CEO Jim Marggraff speak, he was wearing quite silly eyeglasses, through which he showed how he could make purchases on Amazon, just by using his eyes.

"Those are the cool ones," some bright spark whispered.

I suppose they were one step forward from Google Glass, but it was a tot's step at best.

One day, I suppose, we'll all be wearing some sort of head device through which we'll be doing one thing while communicating with the actual human in front of us with our other body parts.

And they won't know what we're actually doing.

It's not that we'll become multi-taskers exactly. It's that we'll become spectacularly split personalities.

But we'll happily accept this, won't we?

Imagine, we'll soon be able to eye-butt moles. And then our lives will be complete.