Eye Control is Coming to Windows 10

Posted on August 2, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 8 Comments

Microsoft announced this week that Windows 10 will include eye tracking support via a new feature called Eye Control in a future update. But you can beta test this functionality now.

“Having Eye Control in Windows 10 continues to bridge the gap between widely used technology and people with disabilities,” former NFL player Steve Gleason says. “It’s simply liberating.”

Gleason, you may recall, has a neuromuscular disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and he has appeared previously in Microsoft advertising and other promotional materials. ALS has confined Mr. Gleason to a wheelchair, and this horrible disease impacts all muscles in the body except for the eyes.

So he challenged Microsoft employees at a hackathon three years ago to develop technology that could help those with ALS overcome some of the limitations of the disease. And Microsoft rose to this challenge.

“A team calling themselves Ability Eye Gaze took on Steve’s ask, excited by the opportunity to create technology that could genuinely affect a person’s life, and quickly got to work,” Microsoft explains. “The Ability Eye Gaze team focused on developing a tool based on Steve’s requests, and after three days of hacking, one of the projects stood out: the Eye Gaze Wheelchair. This unique solution allowed Steve to drive his wheelchair with only the movement of his eyes as he looked at controls on his Surface.”

Eye Gaze Wheelchair was ultimately awarded the grand prize winner of the 2014 Microsoft hackathon. And the software giant created a new research team to better understand the potential of eye tracking technologies.

This past year, the Windows team jumped on board too. And thanks to the promising results obtained by prototyping new eye tracking scenarios, a team of engineers was able to bring eye tracking support to Windows 10.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced at this year’s hackathon that Windows 10 will include built-in eye tracking support and a new experience called Eye Control, both of which were inspired from the winning hack of 2014.

“Eye Control makes Windows 10 more accessible by empowering people with disabilities to operate an on-screen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech experience using only their eyes,” Microsoft says. “The experience requires a compatible eye tracker, like the Tobii 4C, which unlocks access to the Windows operating system to be able to do the tasks one could previously accomplish with a physical mouse and keyboard.”

While it’s not clear when this functionality will be added to Windows 10, you can beta test it now via the Windows Insider program if you’d like.

And be sure to read Microsoft’s inspiring story about this technology and how it came about. This is a great example of technology being used for good.


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Comments (8)

8 responses to “Eye Control is Coming to Windows 10”

  1. wright_is

    Sounds good.

    And it might also help those that are able bodied as well. The number of times I look at where I am expecting to type, only to realise that the focus is in another window or another part of the document; although there are also times where I am transcribing or translating text, so I am looking at one place and typing in another window...

  2. nbplopes

    What a heartening story. Kudus to MS for giving a shot at this finally ... pushed by Apple of course, who else.

    Here is a different perspective. Apple decided to add these kinds of features to Sierra and of course MS got to have it too. Now its pumping the idea of course with no dead line in sight.

    Again one of the things I like about Apple is that they do it, don't talk about it before they actually have something to deliver that works properly. It just is more truthful and genuine to me, far less FUD, more delivery.


    • navarac

      In reply to nbplopes:
      What a heartening story. Kudus to MS for giving a shot at this...
      Unnecessary comment further than this.


    • SvenJ

      In reply to nbplopes: Right, and MS hasn't had accommodations for disabilities baked into the OS before. Guess you've never accidentally fired up narrator or magnifier. Those are just examples. MS has been actively engaged in accessibility for decades. This isn't about 'me too'.

      • nbplopes

        In reply to SvenJ:

        I know they have ....

        I think is not about "me too" but I am not so sure if the priority trigered from internal principles of propeperity with tech or by a fierce competition mindset considering what the competition is doing. Because with their marketshare in the desktop and laptop market, this stuff is not just about doing more, it can actually change people's lives.

        Let's not go on politically correct shall we, because these challenges need solutions not commercials. I can workaround the fact that I need to connect and disconnect my Surface cover from time to time, or that suddenly Surface simply decides to update in the middle of the day but this people not so easily!!!!!

  3. JerryH

    Hmm, quickly being able to add helpful things like this to the OS argues for Microsoft's twice a year upgrade strategy (which has admittedly suffered from flawed execution) and against Paul's once a year or less argument. I imagine you could say that if Windows was more modular this could just be an add-on - but it probably needs to be baked in at a pretty low level so most likely needs to come in at one of the semi-annual upgrade points.

  4. BoItmanLives

    Enough with the pointless gimmicks consumers ignore (Windows Hello) and give us a telemetry opt out.

  5. Simard57

    wondering if the Windows Hello camera will able to support this on their own with some future enhancements