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Apple Patents Eye-Tracking Software Feature for Possible Use on Mac and iOS

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Apple has been awarded yet another patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for “Systems and methods for counteracting a perceptual fading of a movable indicator”. In a nutshell, the patent outlines an eye-tracking technology that can be used to control a user interface on a computer or smartphone. (via AppleInsider)

The technology described in patent also deals with Troxler Effect, an optical illusion affecting visual perception. When one fixates on a particular point for even a short period of time, an unchanging stimulus away from the fixation point will fade away and disappear. Well, the Cupertino giant’s new patent suggests a solution that can fix this natural issue.

If Apple succeeds in the practical devising of this patented technology, it will become a lot easier to ensure that users do not lose track of a cursor while controlling their devices through eye-tracking movements. Apple aims to incorporate the described set up to its Mac, iPhone, and iPad and possibly its coming generation of Apple TV.

As described in the patent, a movable on-screen indicator is associated with a user’s point of gaze which is tracked by a fitted camera, thereby facilitating input through detection of eye movement.

As stated in the patent-

Systems and methods are provided for altering the position or visual appearance of a movable indicator in a GUI that is controlled by eye tracking to counteract a perceptual fading of the movable indicator with respect to the GUI. The position of the user’s point of gaze may be tracked, the movable indicator may be rendering at a position associated with the user’s point of gaze, and the position or visual appearance of the movable indicator may be altered when an event, such as a passage of time or a blinking of the user’s eyes, is detected.

Though the patent does not suggest any specified use of the described technology, we can think about some. Vision-based interface systems could have big advantages in terms of adding accessibility improvements to iOS and Mac devices. Suppose you are watching a movie, this tech can be used to control basic functions while your hands are occupied or maybe if you are too lazy. You can also enable automatic pause feature that would simply pause the movie every time you look away from the screen so that you do not miss even a single frame.

Though the Cupertino giant receives a whole lot of patents every year, very few of them are actually moulded into reality. If this one comes into practice, it would mark the beginning of a redefined future in user accessibility.

Notably, this patent comes at the time when Apple is already headed in the direction of making its system hands-free as much as possible. Last month, the company was awarded patent for Lens Array Projector that aims to bring in body gesture controls to Apple’s devices which was followed by a patent for 3D user interface session control, a software UI that would come in use with this motion sensing hardware.

Apple’s gaze-based GUI with perceived fade countermeasures was first filed for in April 2012 and credits David P. Julian as its inventor.


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