This is Acheron, coming in over a multi-band particle transponder *worrying crackle noises*
The New Year is upon us and with it come many new and exciting things; this is the year of AI, deliveries via drone, SkyNet taking over..maybe not that. But, for me it is also the year of hardware for eye and head tracking. But, most importantly the eye tracking. The eye tracking looks good, I like the eye tracking, can you tell? Okay, let’s talk about the Tobii EyeX – the new competitor to TrackIr, so they say.
TrackIr, what is it? And why is it used? Basically this hardware involves a sensor on top of your monitor tracking the infrared signal of either three bulbs attached to a gamer’s head (typically the headset), or similar tags attached to a hat. It allows for accurate tracking of movement, and for you to control where a character looks in game by having it reproduce your own real life movements. This is a game changer, especially in flight Sims, and obviously Star Citizen. These pieces of hardware allow you to have situational awareness, to check surroundings more naturally. However, there is a slight learning curve to TrackIr, and it also requires neck muscle movement, which is not the most accurate ‘pointer’, and explains the learning curve and nudging required.
Tobii are a Swedish company specialising in eye tracking. This is exciting because the eye is a very precise ‘biological pointer’, of sorts. Tobii has capitalised on this with the EyeX, which the website says has an eye to application latency of 15ms +/- 5ms – which is pretty damn good. The thin bar of hardware has three sensors which are tracking your eye movement very, very closely. The hardware still seems relatively new, but is very, very exciting. Praised for it’s intuitive design and slightly more ‘plug and play’ nature. While it still requires a calibration, it has the added ease of being far more natural a movement (it seems from videos and descriptions). Learning to move your head to get a good response in game with the TrackIr can be quite difficult for some, while the movement of the eye, if tracked accurately, is something we have done all our lives and the EyeX appears to track it very well. However I feel it important to state that I naturally assume that there are hickups with setting up this software/hardware, judging by the support forum; but the responses are still overwhelmingly positive.
The EyeX is just a small bar that fits on the bottom of your monitor, or on the hinge of your laptop, and plugs into a 3.0 USB port; preferably. The EyeX suggests having 8Gb of RAM and 2GHz in your quad core i5 or i7 CPU – so not for all rigs, but for any that hope to run Star Citizen. After that you calibrate the software by completing some ‘look at the dot’ exercises and limiting some in-game movement eg don’t go beyond this point, say 90 degrees left and right; and then Bob is your Uncle. There are kinks to work out. There isn’t a lot of compatibility yet, certainly not for Star Citizen; there doesn’t appear to be useful hotkeys for centering the camera and importantly, at the beginning, it can be disorientating (according to Jester814 who tested it with Arma 3, video included below)
But these are kinks that can be worked out over time, and there is still a way for the software to go. For instance, I’m not sure whether it can be disabled, but you will notice a little ghost of a circle on the screen in Jester’s video. This appears in other videos too and represents where your eyes are looking. For something that is aiming to increase immersion, that is quite distracting. EDIT: I have since seen online that this can be disabled by the user, it is obviously enabled to allow the user to see how well the tracking functions
Tobii are working from what seems like a very stable piece of hardware, as some of the included videos will show. This is a new era of cheaper, more intuitive hands free interaction. Who knows what else you could use it for? Possibly in Star Citizen it will allow for faster HUD access, or allow us to interact with more objects dynamically. Importantly the EyeX is a tracker which will aid in our sense of immersion, as it, in a way, ‘stealth tracks’ your eye movement. The lack of any sense that you are wearing something to achieve this hands free movement is important for an ‘immersion central’ space sim like Star Citizen; you are more connected to the game, and in my opinion it could be a good step forward.
I’ll find out soon though, as I have placed an order and will do a follow up review. Until then, tell me what you think.
This is Acheron’s Transmission…
“…and gently she titled her head up, and saw the sun glitter and gleam across all those millions of miles of empty space…”