Over 100 games now support Tobii‘s eye-tracking technology, including blockbuster hits like Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed: Origins and indie favorites such as Ori and the Blind Forest. That means that these games are also more accessible to players who may have disabilities that traditional controllers and keyboards don’t accommodate.
Bill Donegan is a projects manager at SpecialEffect, a U.K.-based charity that helps people with disabilities play games. It recently raised nearly $400,000 for its cause. Donegan says that eye-tracking technology is something that helps folks with disabilities complete tasks in their daily lives.
“We use the systems which are designed for people with disabilities to enable them to access all sorts of activities, from reading Kindle books or sending emails and texts to controlling their TV, as well as for speech output if they are unable to speak themselves,” said Donegan in an email to GamesBeat. “In many instances, and with the right interface, eye gaze can enable people with disabilities to access many things they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.”
Tobii has applied its technology to sectors beyond just gaming. Tobii’s research division previously released a study about how eye-tracking can contribute to industrial safety, and it’s investigated how it can help determine where medical professionals are looking inside training simulators.
When it comes to gaming, Donegan says that the affordable price of Tobii’s EyeX and Eye Tracker 4C cameras may very well help raise awareness about how the technology can help those with disabilities. Tobii’s tracker comes in certain hardware packages, like the Alienware 17 R4 laptop and the Predator 21X monitor. Players can also separately purchase the $100 EyeX and the $150 Eye Tracker 4C (which comes with additional head-tracking) to play games with eye-tracking.
“Whilst this hasn’t had a direct impact on our work helping people with disabilities to access games yet, as the lower cost mainstream Tobii eye-trackers become more widely available, this will hopefully have a positive knock-on effect in terms of people with disabilities being able to use them for an increasingly wide range of gaze accessible games too,” said Donegan. “Double Fine are an example of a mainstream company which have made a game (Day of the Tentacle) fully accessible to people who use a wide range of gaze trackers.”
Donegan says that beyond just implementing gaze-assisted interactions, developers can add in a number of features that will make their games more accessible.
He points to games like Forza Motorsport 7 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, which have “smart steering” that help players interact with fewer buttons pressed. FIFA 18’s two-button control scheme is also something that SpecialEffects frequently recommends for players with physical disabilities, along with NHL 18’s NHL 94 control scheme.
“Offering gameplay modes with reduced control schemes can open up games to a wider range of players,” said Donegan. “In terms of console accessibility, Xbox One’s ‘Copilot’ feature enables players to use multiple controllers to control one in-game player. This means that you can share controls with a friend, opening up any game to be played with as many or as few controls as someone can access. These types of features can aid a wide range of players, meaning more people can enjoy these games.”