Glasses and nerds are a pair that have gone together since before time itself. For a long time I thought it was a horrible cliche that I was doomed to live out, but one visit to a particularly helpful optometrist shone new light onto the curse. We talked casually about hobbies, I mentioned reading, art, music, and videogames and he smiled.
"Makes sense" he said looking at my short sighted prescription "Your world is all nice and close to you". He then tested my depth perception and we quickly learned why my career in ballsports never took off.
In this, the year 2022, glasses are about so much more than just correcting vision but still often remain synonymous with nerds. We've got VR headsets that have zoomed forward in the past few years and are slowly shrinking down to glasses sizes. Plus there are glasses emulating literal screens like the XR glasses we tried with the Steam Deck (opens in new tab) or the new augmented reality glasses from Nreal (opens in new tab). But what if the glasses watched you instead?
The Tobii Pro Glasses 3 (opens in new tab) do exactly this, by tracking eye movement in real time to determine what the wearer is looking at and focussing on. This isn't a brand new tech, and is often used for marketing research, and pro gaming but in saying that, this is the nicest implementation I've seen. They look almost like passable glasses. Almost.
Because of their glasses-passing appearance and weather proofing efforts, these can be worn out and about without many people even noticing the cameras. This is both terrifying and useful, as it means the weather is less likely to be distracted by gawkers, giving more accurate and natural eye tracking data.
Of course, gaming is the implementation I'm excited for which was shown off by Twitter user Jardier (opens in new tab). They shared a video of Tobii prototype glasses in use while playing at a Logitech racing sim booth, detecting where eyes are focusing while driving. You can see Jardier in the glasses at the beginning before it shifts to a view of the gaming screen.
This was really cool to try: Tobi prototype glasses(not for sale cause over 10k dollars price, sorry if Im wrong) at Logitech booth with eye tracking.You did few laps so they get data BUT was able to see where your eyes are actually looking while driving - SICKI love this🤯😍 pic.twitter.com/50XFPF6MkuDecember 5, 2022
A red circle appears over the game pointing out where the drivers eyes are currently looking. This kind of data not only helps game and peripheral makers dial in their products, but can also help train gamers with granular information. It's also just fascinating to see what the eye naturally focuses on and how this can change person to person. It's likely even going to be good for VTubers and face cams and the likes.
These eye tracking glasses are unlikely to be cheap with Jardier's tweet saying they may cost over $10,000 USD. The Tobii site doesn't give any prices off the bat, and given the eyewear isn't available as one of their entry level options we're inclined to believe them.
Thankfully, for the nerdy among us Tobii still offer a bunch of eye tracking and content creation tools (opens in new tab) just for gamers, at more sensible prices. The Tobii Eye Tracker 5 (opens in new tab), for example is a bar that sits at the bottom of the screen to perform eye and head tracking for other 160 supported games. This is on the site for 259 EUR, which is still a bit pricy for someone like me, but for esports pros reaching for the top this kind of tech makes a tonne of sense. Can't wait until they have it available in contact lenses.