Why spend the effort messing around using a Wiimote-like remote, or even shouting at the TV, to get it to change channel, when you can just stare at what you want and blink to select? Well, that’s Haier’s theory anyway, and, amazingly, it actually works.
OK, so eye-tracking is nothing new — the military has been doing it for ages in helicopter gunships and things — but to see it genuinely working on a TV is pretty impressive. Well, I say on a TV, it’s not like it’s built right into the frame or anything. You’ve got an eye-scanning box that sits pretty close in front of you, which hooks into a computer to control the on-screen display. It’s certainly not the most convenient, practical or elegant solution, but hell, it’s a start, and it’s really just a prototype at this stage.
After calibration, watching a ball move across the screen while it tracks your eyes, you’re in. You focus on something to highlight it and then blink a couple of times in rapid succession to select it, moving through the menus. Navigating around by just looking at things was amazingly intuitive; you’re going to look where you want to click anyway, I guess, so this just removes a layer of apparatus and effort needed. Looking at the bottom pops up your standard media-playing bar, with volume options and play controls. Scrubbing, at least clicking and dragging, is a no-go though, but the rest works as you’d expect.
In my play with the thing, it was amazingly accurate, really; at least as precise as a Wiimote pointer, which was pretty impressive. The system struggled with those wearing glasses, but what do you expect?
It’s not practical in any sense of the word, of course — what happens when you just look at a specific spot on your TV, like tracking lap times while watching F1 for instance? Still, it could be pretty awesome in combination with voice control. Here’s hoping eye-tracking and Kinect combine to make channel surfing even lazier than it already is.