Science fiction often shows people in the future controlling games — and plenty of other things — with the power of their minds. We’re not there yet, but baby steps: the first arcade game that can be controlled with just eye movements is here now.
Eye Asteroids is an updated version of the classic Atari game, with flashy, full-color graphics replacing the old vector lines. Instead of a ship, you “pilot” an entire planet through choppy asteroid fields and radiation belts, blasting a huge laser at any chunk of rock that could hit your world--being careful not to hit the healing bonuses, of course.
The biggest difference between Eye Asteroids and the classic version, of course, is that you never actually touch the game, aside from hitting one button at the start. Every laser blast is aimed simply by looking at the target, with a bit of head movement thrown in to avoid those radiation fields. It’s tricky — we’re used to scanning with our eyes and then targeting — and your accuracy depends on how well the pre-game calibration goes. You can wear prescription glasses while playing, but if they’re powerful, they can throw off the calibration. And if it's off even a little bit. . . let’s just say certain moments from Armageddon will be re-enacted often.
The company behind the game, Tobii, is a developer of eye-tracking technology. Company reps at Eye Asteroids’ unveiling in New York City said the game is both a technology demonstration and an attempt to establish a beachhead in gaming industry territory. It’ll likely only be in big-name arcades like Dave & Buster’s in Manhattan, where the big unveiling took place, partly because Tobii’s making only 50 units total and partly because of price. At $15,000 a pop, the game is definitely on the high end of arcade systems.
What does the future hold for eye-tracking tech? Earlier this year, Tobii showed off a laptop, built by Lenovo, that uses the power of sight to move and click a mouse. That unit was strictly a prototype, and it’s a good thing since it was far bulkier than your typical ThinkPad. However, at the Eye Asteroids debut, the company said that technology had been perfected and miniaturized, and that consumer products would arrive in the next couple of years.
We’ll be, uh, watching. In the meantime, check out Eye Asteroids in action:
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