Review: Tobii Eye Tracker 4C (Hardware)

Tobii Eye Tracker 4C: Official GBAtemp Review

Hardware 2,992 views 2 likes 6 comments
Reviewed by Prans Dunn, posted Feb 28, 2017, last updated Feb 28, 2017
Feb 28, 2017
Is it a webcam? Is it a Kinect? No! It's an... eye-tracker!
Prans Dunn

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That was (almost) my first impression when I first learnt about the Tobii Eyetracking device at this year's Global Game Jam where Tobii was one of the event's sponsors. When the host described its experience as "truly magic", I said that I had to witness that for myself so I could share it with you too!


So let's see what the Tobii Eyetracking device is all about, shall we?


Before jumping into the review, I'd like to send my heartfelt thanks to the Tobii Tech Marketing Team for providing us with a review sample and their help throughout the making of this review. Tack!

You can visit their website here

Which Spell Conjures the Magic?

Abracadabra! 


Ok, not really but close enough...


Tobii is a Swedish high-tech company that develops and sells products for eye control and eye tracking. The company operates through 3 business units that make touch and eye-controlled computers for people with special needs, products that are used for research in the academic community and more recently, gaming peripherals.


As you might have guessed, an “eye tracker” consists of illuminators and cameras that track the movement of the eyes to allow devices to understand where the user is looking, all with the aim to make the user experience more natural and intuitive. The illuminators project IR light into the eye to illuminate them while the cameras take pictures of the eye in order to calculate where on the screen the user is looking (similar to X,Y coordinates on a map).

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What's-in-the-box

The package was rapidly delivered via UPS and the eye tracker was securely packaged under 3 layers of boxes and cushion (Russian dolls, anyone?).

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The full contents are as follows:
- The warranty and safety & compliance papers
- Two mounting brackets for installation. One to get started right away and the other as a spare
- The Tobii Eye Tracker 4C with attached USB 2.0 cable, 80cm
- The installation guide with instructions on how to mount your eye tracker to a laptop or monitor
- Tobii Eye Tracker 4C Box
- USB Extension Cable (1 Meter)

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Getting on Track

Released in late 2016, the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C is the direct, improved and amped-up successor of the Tobii EyeX. It boasts several features like being the first and only PC gaming device to provide simultaneous head and eye tracking functionality and integrating the Tobii EyeChip, the world’s first eye tracking ASIC, which reduces data exchange, CPU load and power consumption from the host device. See here or the chart below to learn more about the differences between the 4C and EyeX:

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As for the set up, it's fairly simple. The eye tracker will attach to the magnetic mounting bracket provided and you'll connect it to one of your USB ports. The 80cm USB cable to which the device is attached might not be long enough for some, especially desktop PCs, but Tobii has got you covered with the included USB extension cable. As for me, the original cable is more than enough for my laptop and if you're wondering (like I did) if the mounting bracket will get in the way when closing your laptop, rest assured that it is thin enough and is of no inconvenience. Looks like they thought about the practical aspects through and through!


Here's the look after the full set up:
 

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And now for the setup:

As you can see, the eye tracking looks pretty accurate from the intro! But how does it stack up for gaming?

Eye See Your Game

Rather than being a mere R-stick replacement, the eye tracker is more of an add-on peripheral to enhance your gaming experience, for a more "natural" control over your games. Just look around with your eyes and you'll be prompted where to get cover, stare long enough at objects to perform actions, and even quickly aim at enemies. Below are some videos of me putting the device to the test, and alongside each video is the promotional one for the same game:

 

 

Look Mum, no hands!

  

 


I've tested the eye and head-tracking to control the camera in Rise of the Tomb Raider, used the "Gaze to Cover" in Watch Dogs 2 to be prompted where I can cover just by scanning the screen with my eyes, and in Dying Light I was controlling where the flashlight points to with my gaze, and by staring at some prompts, some actions can be performed. The 4C does the eye tracking pretty accurately as you can see in the videos; additionally, the in-game settings allow you to tune its sensitivity and features to your liking. The games do indeed implement the use of the device properly. With the compatible games I've played, it does make the controls feel seamless, natural even.


There is a growing list of compatible games, including AAA titles from Square Enix, Ubisoft and indies, and Tobii is also taking requests for your fave games! Some interesting free games and demos can be found under the Games section of their website that implement the eye tracker in unique ways. There's also a developer corner with the Tobii Eye Tracking SDK, providing game devs with the tools needed to build interactive eye-gaze enabled games and applications.
 

Tobii or not Tobii?

That is the question!


Do you need it? No. Do you want it? Yes? Should you get it? Maybe. It's a great, novel experience in gaming that I can speculate to see being implemented in more gaming PCs and even consoles. At a €159 price point, it will prove worth the cost should you want to experience your games in a novel way. It delivers what it advertises, so don't expect anything more. If you're a developer, this peripheral would probably be of even more interest to you, allowing you to explore a different method of control in games.


Tobii is reputed in the eye tracking world and is only now adventuring in the gaming world, bringing its expertise in eye-tracking to gamers. I'm really looking forward to what they'll come up next... a VR/AR headset? *wink wink*

Verdict
Pros
+ New and accurate tech
+ Enhances gaming experience
Cons
- PC-only
- Limited number of compatible games, although the library is growing
7.8
out of 10
Overall
The Tobii Eye Tracker 4C is a great piece of technology which accurately tracks your eyes to provide an enhanced gaming experience, all coming from a team seasoned in the eye tracking field. They've only recently started to explore the gaming applications of their technology which has me personally looking forward to what they can come up with in the future!
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