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E-BOOKS + “How Eye Tracking Could Revolutionize Interaction Design.”

At this time of year, there is a lot of focus on electronics and books as popular gift items. In this spirit, we have chosen something which combines the two to predict what reading may be like in the (near) future.  This technology, developed by PredictGaze, could have a great impact on how enhanced e-books are developed and how we “read” e-books.

The title of the post comes from an article in Co.Design written by Mark Wilson on December 2001. Mark Wilson’s asks these intriguing questions,

What if you could move a cursor on your TV with just your eyes? Or turn the page of an ebook without using your hands? These are the promises of PredictGaze, what’s basically (and somewhat allegedly) a series of ingenious algorithms by a team of garage engineers. PredictGaze can work with the lousy webcam in your smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and even in low-light conditions, track your eyes and identify your face to enable all sorts of futuristic controls.

Check out the demo of the gaze enabled browser control:

Wilson’s Article continues,

[Another] demo shows the iPad scrolling through eye movements alone. What makes this impressive? It’s a lousy stock iPad camera. Another demo shows that, when a person walks away from the television, it automatically pauses. What makes this impressive? The software discerns between two users. (And incidentally, this same setup, running through a Macbook Pro roughly 10 feet away from the viewer, allowed the television to track eye movement with a cursor.

Wilson also says,

No doubt, Kinect could handle eye tracking were its cameras higher resolution. And the Leap Motion has a lot of people newly enthusiastic about high-fidelity motion controls. But PredictGaze is pulling off all these stunts using stock platforms–stuff we all have in our hands, laps, and living rooms today–no special hardware required.

Mark Wilson’s article cites on one by Hamish McKenzie published on October 5, 2012 in PandoDaily. McKenzie writes,

PredictGaze is software that turns the camera on ordinary computing devices into a sophisticated eye-tracking technology. Reading a book on your iPad and want to turn the page? Just look down at the bottom right-hand corner. Watching a smart TV and want to see what’s on the other channel? Direct your gaze at a corner of the screen. Reading a long article on your iPhone? The story will scroll down as your eye moves down the page.

One of the critical advantages of this technology, McKenzie points out, is,

None of this requires any special equipment, and it works in changing light conditions, from a distance of 12 feet, and on shaky handheld devices that are constantly on the move.

SO WHAT?

So what does all this have to do with the book, specifically, the e- book? One of the hottest areas in technology today is UI, User Interface. The goal is to have the least amount of obstacles between the person and the data, whether it be clicks, tips (E-Readers and Tablets controlled by the tip of your finger), or thumbs, as in texting on smartphones. All of these have a number of obstacles. One of the most critical is that they all normally require two hands to operate. Thus, the user is completely tied to the device. With this new technology, even the touch screen will seem quaint.

Consider this idea:

We have written before about the e+ book Impressionist and Post Impressionist Painting produced by ArtePublishing and the Muse d’Orsay, one of the best enhanced e-books we’ve seen. His book has scalable reproductions of nearly 200 paintings by 26 artists, including such favorites as Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh; over three hours of original audio information about the artists and their paintings; and more than 500 hyperlinks to some of the best sites on the Internet to learn more about the artists and their work. Imagine using this new technology with this book.

Will this ever happen? Well, the distance from Blade Runner, Minority Report,  and now is not that great …

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