This week, there’s a strange new invention making waves at the IFA technology conference in Berlin: an eyeball controlled TV. It pretty much works just like you’d expect it to. Look at an area on the screen like the channel, for instance, blink and the channel changes. Look at another area, blink and the volume goes up. Blink again, and it turns down.
This is crazy. An eyeball controlled TV sounds like something thought up by a bunch of stoners who can’t keep track of the remote control. “Dude, wouldn’t it be awesome if we could just control the screen with our eyes?!” No, it wouldn’t dude. Because an eyeball controlled TV is hands down the laziest invention of the decade, and the thought of these things taking over America’s living rooms makes me genuinely concerned about the future of mankind.
Fears for the fate of humanity aside, eye control technology is catching on. The new TV made by the Chinese manufacturer Haier is just the latest in a whole line of gadget that use eyeballs for input. Lenovo and Tobii were some of the first to the scene last year when they released the world’s first eyeball controlled laptop. It used a infrared light source on top of the screen to watch for “glints” off your eyeballs when you move them. This is sort of like how remote controls work except in this scenario you are the remote control.
On a computer this idea makes some sense. After all, there’s a lot happening on a computer screen, and an extra mode of input can help calm the chaos. Instead of right clicking on an icon and scrolling through options, you can just look at it and more information will pop up. The eye tracking technology can also identify which window you’re looking at and dim everything else in the background to make it easier to see. This kind of intuitive design ends up enhancing the existing interface enabling you to do things you couldn’t do before. That’s kind of cool!
An eye-controlled TV just seems lazy. The system requires a Kinect-like sensor that you set up on your coffee table. It’s about 15 times the size of a regular remote control and doesn’t quite work perfectly. Furthermore, its functionality is limited to really basic tasks like volume control and changing the channel. And unless you’re an avid knitter, it seems sort of unlikely that you wouldn’t have a hand free to use a remote.
It could be worse, though. There’s also an eye controlled tablet — with a touchscreen. That’s actually entirely useless.