​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.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein

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 Eye Tribe shows you the future of eye tracking (pictures)

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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