Microsoft Corp announced this week that its Windows operating system will soon offer built-in eye tracking support with a new Eye Control feature that will let people with disabilities operate an onscreen mouse, keyboard and text-to-speech feature using only their eyes.
Microsoft was inspired to create eye tracking technology for its products by former NFL player Steve Gleason, who suffers from ALS. Gleason asked the company in 2014 to work on eye tracking technology because, for most people with ALS, the eyes are the only muscles not affected by the terminal illness.
“I realized pretty quickly after my diagnosis that technology would have to become an extension of myself,” Gleason said. “Until there is a medical cure for ALS, technology will be that cure.”
- Microsoft programmers built technology that allowed Gleason to operate his wheelchair using his eyes to look at controls on a Surface tablet. That inspired the company to focus on eye tracking technology for all its platforms in collaboration with ALS groups and the team that first built Gleason’s “Eye Gaze Wheelchair.”