You can now get a pro gamer’s view of e-sports.
Gaming peripheral maker SteelSeries is launching an eye-tracking control system for video game fans today. Based on technology from Tobii Tech, SteelSeries has tailored its SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker for e-sports gaming enthusiasts, enabling them to see exactly what a pro gamer sees during competitive matches.
If it works, eye-tracking could be one of the biggest innovations in game controllers in a long time, and it could also have other spin-off benefits, such as the tracking of pro gamers’ eye movements for broadcast purposes. Sony is also working on eye-tracking technology, as are other tech companies like Intel.
Both Tobii and SteelSeries are showing the Sense system at the 2015 International CES tech tradeshow in Las Vegas this week, and they’re streaming demos from the show floor. The companies first demoed the system at the 2014 International CES a year ago, but now SteelSeries is selling its gaming peripheral for $200.
In the future, SteelSeries will add the capability for a player to control a game with their eyes. But for now, it is just showing off the game-streaming technology.
Proponents of eye-tracking say that it is a faster and more natural way of controlling the action in video games, such as first-person shooters. All you need to do to target an enemy is glance at it, and then a target reticule will pinpoint it. Then you can push a button or pull a trigger on a game controller. The companies say that the system could help level the playing field for average players or create an unfair advantage for experts.
Last year, the system didn’t always work well, and it wasn’t that easy to set up. You had to train it to locate your eyes every time you booted a game. This will only really take off if the technology works accurately and does so in real time so that it outperforms the split-second movements players can make with controllers or computer mice. Eye-tracking by itself might not be a full system for gamers. But it will be part of the mix of new input and display technologies like virtual reality goggles, gesture control, touchscreens, and other newfangled offerings aimed at bringing people inside their games in new ways.
Tobii’s tech promises precision control. It uses a camera-like device to detect your eyeball in three dimensions and then determines precisely where you are looking on a screen. It has commercialized the technology for control systems for people with disabilities. And it has also built the Tobii EyeX controller that also enables clinical researchers to track eye movements for studies.
SteelSeries will demo the Sentry Eye Tracker via gameplay livestreaming site Twitch, a division of Amazon. Players will demo the system with games like the multiplayer shooter Counter-Strike: Go, multiplayer strategy games Dota 2 and League of Legends, and others.
“Today, with our Sentry Eye Tracker, we are announcing an entirely new way for streamers and viewers to see the game,” said SteelSeries CEO Ehtisham Rabbani in a statement. “This is just the tip of the innovation iceberg for Sentry, and we could not be more excited to realize all the possibilities that emerge when your game knows where your eyes are looking.”
SteelSeries said that the Sentry delivers a new way for audiences to see the game exactly as the streamer sees it — literally through the player’s eyes. By tracking eye movement, in real time and overlaying that directly onto the real-time screen, the spectator can show viewers where the he or she is looking at all times.
That could be a big win for broadcasting e-sports, or competitive video games played by professional gamers. And SteelSeries says that Sentry also brings emerging professional-level players an entirely new way to train for competitive gaming, by allowing the player to analyze a wide range of statistics based on where and how long he focused, or fixated, on different parts of the screen during gameplay. SteelSeries is working with top pro gamers to create peak performance goals that can be used by average players as benchmarks.