First Microsoft Hackathon Brings Eye Control To Windows 10: Here’s How It Works


Microsoft plans for Windows 10 to support native eye tracking, primarily geared for people suffering from disabilities or disorders that render them unable to use a computer interface that typically requires a mouse or trackpad and a keyboard.

Native eye tracking makes navigating around Microsoft's operating system and controlling some various functions possible for people who suffer from diseases the likes of ALS, MS, and others.

How Eye Control Started

The project came about when Steve Gleason, a former NFL player who now suffers from ALS, reached out to Microsoft and challenged it to develop a kind of technology where he would be able to more easily play with his son, communicate with his wife, and steer his wheelchair independently, Microsoft explains.

Gleason's came at an opportune time. The company then was at its first One Week Hackathon event, where Microsoft encourages employees to focus on their passion projects that empower people around the world. A team called Ability Eye Gaze worked on Gleason's challenge.

Just three days of hacking resulted in the Eye Gaze Wheelchair, which eventually became the grand prize winner of the hackathon. This spurred Microsoft to create a special team researching on eye tracking technology.

Fast forward to last week, around the time of another One Week Hackathon event. CEO Satya Nadella announced that Windows 10 will include eye-tracking support called Eye Control, inspired by the 2014 hackathon project.

Windows 10 Eye Control: How It Works

Eye Control will require special hardware such as the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C and similar products. In fact, Microsoft has partnered closely with Tobii to develop Eye Control, and many of Tobii's products will support the feature soon.

Eye Control will allow for some truly innovative control methods, such as gazing at an app to launch it or looking at letters on an onscreen keyboard to type out words and phrases.

Microsoft has yet to share a specific list of navigational features one can perform using only Eye Control, but that's understandable since it's still currently in beta. Participants who want to sign up are required to become a Windows Insider.

Exactly when Microsoft plans to publicly roll out Eye Control remains a question, but there's a possibility it could appear very soon, perhaps it could even be included in the March Windows 10 Update next year. At the very least, this ensures that Windows 10 will become an operating system that's accessible to all types of people, even those who may have minimal movement abilities.

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