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.
Tagged with Accessibility