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​Eye tracking on a smartwatch? There's a prototype for that

Could eye tracking be a good idea for a small screen? The EyeTribe thinks so, and is looking to shrink down its hardware to do it.

An EyeTribe hardware kit for testing, using a Sony smartwatch. Sarah Tew/CNET

BARCELONA -- How many more surprises will wearable tech spring on us? Maybe eye tracking for one. The EyeTribe, a company that already makes a $99 eye-tracking device for tablets and PCs, is working on one for smartwatches, too.

EyeTribe CEO Sune Alstrup showed me a development prototype of the exposed hardware on an elastic band, modded to work off a Sony SmartWatch . The idea, thus far, is to test the possibilities of a speed-reading app, Spritz, which throws one big word at a time for quick reads on small displays. Look away, and the text flow stops. Look up or down, and text flow speeds up or slows down.

The watch hardware was a non-working prototype, but I tried Spritz on a PC using EyeTribe hardware, and it worked as advertised. Why on a smartwatch? Alstrup explained that it could help manage applications on small screens, or even help save battery life: paired with an accelerometer, the eye-tracking hardware could activate, then only turn on the display when your eyes were specifically on it.

Another hardware trick for smartwatches? Sure, why not. It's early days for wearables.

A look at The EyeTribe's demo software, running a larger PC eye-tracking peripheral. Sarah Tew/CNET