Tuesday, June 22, 2010

eReading made easy, with Text 2.0, using Eye Tracking technology.

Even before most people have eReaders, technology is already offering folks an easier way to skim over material, define words and bookmark where you left off at the moment your eyes left the electronic page. I so want an eReader:

Text 2.0 uses eye-tracking technology from Tobii Technology. Text 2.0 uses infrared light and a camera to track eye movement across a screen, and it uses this information to infer a user’s intentions during the course of reading.

For example, taking more time to read certain words, phrases, or names could trigger the appearance of sound effects, footnotes, translations, biographies, definitions, or animations. If the user begins skimming the text, the tracker will begin fading out words it deems less important to the text. If the reader glances away, a bookmark automatically appears, pointing to where the user stopped reading.

I know, it sounds to good to be true, so watch the video (look for the tiny red floating dot):

Besides DFKI’s Text 2.0, Tobii’s technology can be used with online advertising, gaming, car safety, and 3-D displays, says the company. Tobii also says the technology can be used to help people with disabilities.

Although Text 2.0 might sound like an intriguing technology, critics are questioning how helpful it might really be. Some wonder if automatic visual or special effects will be too distracting. They also question whether the software really can determine which words are “less important” if a reader is skimming. And will eye-tracking software open the possibility for advertisements to pop up related to topics the reader is perusing? For example, if a user reads about Julia Child, will advertisements for cutlery appear when a user reads the word “knife”?
DFKI recently put its Processing Easy Eye-tracker Plug-in (PEEP) to a practical use by allowing Webkit’s 3-D capability to create a window manipulation system called “gaze-controlled tab expose.” In other words, computer users can use their eyes to pull up internet tabs in 3-D. PEEP is free to download and can be used in any eye-tracking project. Watch a video showing gaze-controlled tabs in action:

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