May 23, 2024

Over the summer in Washington D.C., I went to an exhibit in the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries building called Futures. It had many interesting displays of innovations from the past and present and discussions of future technology being developed. But the one that caught my eye that seemed immediately feasible was one that lets users play video games, like Minecraft, with their eyes.

When I got to play it, it had a bit of a learning curve but it always takes some adjustment when learning new controls, and I was pleased, as someone who wears glasses, that I could still interact with it well and did not have any trouble tracking my eyes.

The main thing that took some getting used to was that reading the instructions on the screen made the cursor go where my eyes were reading.

The Futures exhibit at the Arts and Industries building displayed a variety of future technology, from eco-friendly building bricks made out of mushrooms to a possible future sustainable city called Oceanix that floats on the ocean.

“On view until July 6, 2022, Futures is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, technologies and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter” the Smithsonian said in a press release on the exhibit.

Besides the wow-factor of being able to control a video game with your eyes, an important way this technology could be implemented is by making video games more accessible to people with problems with their motor skills, arthritis, paralysis, or broken or injured hands who cannot use the typical controllers, whether temporarily or permanently.

Joshua Ramirez, senior biomedical science major, said he is concerned about this technology’s effect on users’ eyes.

“It seems very taxing on your eyes visually, but I think it’d be cool if they incorporated the eye technology with VR,” Ramirez said.

Alan Landa, junior electrical and computer engineering major, said it would open up opportunities for people.

“It opens it up for people who really have trouble with manual dexterity,” Landa said. “It’s one of those things that’s very cool that technology is getting that far. I can also appreciate it from an engineering standpoint.”

For the Minecraft game, the setup was simple. Looking around the screen would move the screen in the direction the user was looking, requiring the user only to move their eyes, not any other part of their body. To click on something, the user would stare at the spot for several seconds, and there would be a loading circle showing them how long they need to keep their gaze there.

The first time I tried it, I was slow at it, but the second and third times I tried it, I got faster and could see how this could become as second nature as any other kind of controller. This technology is already available in the United Kingdom and will likely grow in popularity. This might be the future of video game technology.

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