There’s been a lot of buzz about eye tracking lately, with some of the world’s leaders such as Fujitsu and Samsung making headlines with eye-tracking-based product features or rumours about future vision-driven gadgets. The consumer reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, and eye tracking has been touted as one of the big “hot new things” emerging in consumer technology.

But beyond this cool factor, and the hype that comes with each new announcement, what can eye tracking really do for you?

The answer is simple – a lot. In fact, we predict it will change your life. And, for many, it already has.

Today, eye-tracking technology can help people all over the world access computers through systems that use gaze control. For people with disabilities, it is a gateway to communication, personal expression and inclusion in society.

For mainstream consumers, they will experience eye tracking as it’s integrated into phones, laptops, PCs, gaming systems, automobiles and more. Our main benefit from eye tracking is not access, but rather, extreme speed, increased productivity and intuitiveness. We love our spell check and any other feature of convenience that can help us process our work or play faster and easier.

When integrated with other computer user controls such as keyboards, touch pads,  a mouse or a joystick on gaming systems, eye-tracking systems create entirely new, richer, more natural and intuitive  user experiences. Having to move a cursor with our hand on a mouse or keyboard to get the computer to go where we want was an artificial but necessary step in creating the beginning of the computer era. Now, with eye tracking, we can replace that awkward, often painful step with one of our natural senses – our sight. By using our natural gaze point as part of our user controls, we tear down a barrier between ourselves and computers.

For example, consider the time and energy saved by having the text on your screen scroll as your eye advances down the page? Beyond simple consumer enjoyment when reviewing websites, reading books or long documents, the benefits of gaze scroll become even more dramatic when applied to situations that require hands-free actions, such as during surgical procedures, in-car safety and entertainment systems, and manufacturing production. Think about how much better computer games will be when you can direct your movement with your gaze, just as you do in real life.

In education, eye tracking is becoming a commonly used tool to help provide insight into attention patterns of students in the classroom. These insights can help develop effective teaching techniques, according to the findings of a research study using Tobii Glasses, from David Rosengrant, professor of physics education at Kennesaw State University. However, perhaps one of the most important efforts right now is advancing eye-tracking knowledge for the next generation – those who will live with it in their daily lives at home, work and play.

The potential for eye-tracking technology is virtually endless. New products, new markets and new uses of eye tracking will surely be discovered, and we look forward to it.

Tech Tuesday is a series profiling the Forum’s Technology Pioneers: companies that have been recognized by the Forum for finding new ways to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. 

Author: John Elvesjö is Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Tobii Technology and is a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2013