Published January 14, 2013
You sit down to your notebook and open Internet Explorer without moving the cursor. Then you start scrolling down your favorite website simply by looking up and looking down. These are just two of the things the Tobii Rex will let consumers do when it launches later this year. We went eyes-on with this peripheral at CES 2013 and were blown away by just how accurate Rex is.
The Tobii Rex looks like a small speaker bar that sits between your laptop's screen and deck, and plugs in via USB. Using multiple sensors and light-emitters, Rex can literally follow your eyes across the screen. After calibrating our peepers by staring at dots moving across the display, we were ready to go.
So what can you do with Rex? In one scenario, we could open any applications just by pressing a button while staring at the Windows 8 tile we wanted to click. We could also easily select individual emails in the Mail app, no scrolling required. Within IE, we had no problem scrolling to the top or bottom of Laptopmag.com, but the Rex wasn't quite sensitive enough to select smaller links that were clustered close together.
Tobii showed off two other neat applications of the Rex, one of which is the ability to zoom in on a specific location on a map while looking at the area of the country you wanted to zero in on while pressing a button. We zoomed into our hometown in no time. Last but not least, Rex let us select from among multiple open apps by looking at the one we wanted and pressing a button.
The next step for Tobii is release the Rex Limited Edition for $999, allowing developers to go to town on creating possible applications. Then later this year the company will sell 5,000 Rex devices to consumers. It won't be nearly as expensive, but it won't be cheap either. However, Tobii says that no longer after its peripheral hits the market another company will sell a branded version of the Rex that will be more affordable.
As a tech demo, the Tobii Rex is pretty mind-blowing, but it makes sense to ask how practical this peripheral really is when so many laptops will be shipping with touch screens. For one, repeatedly reaching out and touching the display on a clamshell design can cause physical stress. Second, and more important, the Rex will be used for much more than navigation. Being able to aim in games with your eyes is just one among many uses.
Within the next couple of years, Tobii says the eye-tracking technology inside the Rex will find its way into Ultrabooks and eventually tablets, forever changing the way we interact with our gadgets. We can't wait to see what developers dream up.