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Now you can control ANY Win 8 kit with your EYEBALLS

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CES 2013 It's all gestures and eyeball-tracking at CES this year, with Tobii releasing a USB peripheral that adds control-by-sight to any Windows PC and Lenovo upgrading its Yoga to finger-watching.

Tobii demonstrated its eyeball-tracking technology at CES last year, but this time it is announcing a 5,000 unit production run of a USB bar which can be stuck to the bottom of the monitor of any Windows 8 PC to start tracking eyeballs. Lenovo isn't even waiting that long. Although it is only tracking fingers, it's adding the capability to existing Yoga laptops courtesy of eyeSight Tech.

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off next week but companies are already announcing what they're going to show in the hope of gaining some pre-show publicity, with better ways to control Windows 8 featuring prominently in the offerings.

Touchscreens are marvellous for phones, and good for tablets, but for traditional computing, the technology just isn't as good as the venerable mouse. Kinect showed the way, in limited form, but with the interface formerly known as Metro, Microsoft has created a platform which needs something better than a mouse and is spurring development of some interesting technologies.

Mice are great, not least because they allow (at least) two levels of interaction: mouse-over and click. Aping that with a touchscreen is really hard unless you've got some Wacom tech built in (such as the Samsung Note or the first round of Windows tablets) and even then it only works with a pen, but navigating around Kinect is a pain precisely because it lacks the definition to allow "clicking".

Tobii gets round that problem with a button. One holds it down while looking, then releases when one's gaze is fixed on the point where one wants to click, creating two levels of interaction, while Lenovo just adds gestures for scrolling and gross navigation. Both systems expect the user to drop back to the traditional pointer eventually.

The lucky few who used a Fingerworks keyboard will be familiar with swiping back and forth and gripping to zoom, but Fingerworks kit was prohibitively expensive and still requires one's fingers to rest on the pad - two-dimensional gestures at best. Lenovo's Yoga is using eyeSight's technology to manage navigation within apps including PowerPoint and the media player, allowing a wave of the hand to control playback or navigate between slides, but is available now.

Tobii's USB kit will be shipping "in the spring" though the company is taking pre-orders on the $995 developer version, and taking names for early access to the consumer kit.

The mouse has had a decent innings, but won't be replaced by a touchscreen any time soon, so it's good to see proper innovation in interfacing hitting real products rather than only making an appearance in technical demonstrations. ®

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