Eye tracking has made it possible for people with paralysis or conditions such as cerebral palsy and ALS to connect to computers for years. A new iPad accessory made by Swedish eye-tracking company Tobii Dynavox will do the same for Apple tablets.
Tobii Dynavox is a separate auxiliary device-focused subgroup of Tobii, a company that also makes eye-tracking technology for gaming laptops, business devices, and AR-VR headsets. The company has had Windows-based eye tracking aids for years, but compatibility with iPads is new. The eye-tracking technology in TD Pilot is solely focused on interactions: looking around instantly moves the large circular marker, and keeping your gaze anywhere for a moment acts as a click of a button or open an app.
TD Pilot takes advantage of the iPadOS 15’s extra support for eye-tracking input using Apple’s Assistive Touch tools. Eye tracking can be used on any app or across iPadOS. The rugged case has boosted speakers, cameras, infrared sensors for eye tracking and a rear display to send messages to others in the room. It is a prescription device that can be ordered now.
The device can work with a variety of iPads, but Tobii Dynavox says it’s most efficient with 12.9-inch iPad Pros. The eye tracking technology is ideally used on screens that are 12 inches and larger, which is also the reason why the company is not currently working on a similar tool for the iPhone.
“We’re already making iPad-based solutions where they basically control with joysticks and fingers, but until very recently eyetracking was not something you could do with an iPad or iPadOS,” Tobii Dynavox CEO Frederik Rubin told CNET. “This probably won’t be the holy grail for everyone, but the iPad meets many of the requirements of many people.”
The case is an insurance-covered and medically controlled unit, specially designed for use as mounting on wheelchairs. The accessory supports an existing Tobii symbol-based communication app called TD Snap and a new speech-generating app called TD Talk, which converts entered messages into spoken words. I saw a remote video demo of TD Pilot eye tracking in action, and it reminded me of demos I made to demonstrate how.
This technology is not designed for anything other than specific accessibility issues, but it is likely to be a useful alternative to the existing Windows eye-tracking technology.