Tobii Eye Tracker 4C Review

Tobii has released a new consumer eye tracker, the Tobii Eye Tracker 4C for $150. Although I haven’t found eye tracking to be nearly as helpful as speech recognition, it is handy for those occasional situations where you just want to click a button or change context and you don’t have any command to do so (see my earlier post for details). I have been pretty happy with the Tobii EyeX, but it isn’t perfect, so I was excited to try out this new device.

It arrived just a few days after I ordered it, and came with a complementary USB extension cable. This is an essential addition if you want to use the eye tracker with a desktop, because the built-in cable is very short (although that’s nice when using with a laptop, where it reduces the bulk considerably).

The first thing you will notice after setting it up is that the lights are much less bright than the EyeX. I got used to the bright red lights, but I’m happy to not have those blaring at me all the time anymore. The new lights are primarily using infrared wavelength, although you will still see a red glow.

The main new feature that Tobii is touting is a dedicated chip for performing processing on-device. This is supposed to reduce host CPU load and makes it possible to use USB 2.0 instead of 3.0. Even though I have USB 3.0 ports, I’m happy to see this change because I have found them to be less reliable, occasionally requiring driver updates to work. Also, USB 3.0 doesn’t work with standard USB hubs. As for the CPU load reduction, in theory this is helpful when using with a laptop to reduce fan spinning and power drain, although in practice I haven’t noticed much change (including when looking at CPU usage within the task manager, where it hovers at around 1-2%).

Of course, the most important question is whether it actually works better than the old eye tracker. Indeed, it has improved in a couple ways: higher precision and larger tracking area. After performing calibration, the precision is noticeably better (approximately 2-3X, with about 5 mm diameter noise), although it still exhibits consistent error (as much as 2 cm) towards the periphery. It has always been a mystery to me why this bias cannot be fixed by calibration, because it is so consistent. For this reason, I would still recommend sticking with a screen of up to 24 inches, even though the requirements technically now support up to 27 or 30 inches depending on aspect ratio.

The other improvement is in the tracking area. I use a motorized sit/stand desk, and I used to find that the change in the position of my head in standing position was enough to go out of range of the tracker. That is no longer a problem, indicating a major improvement.

Overall I’m happy with the new device, enough that I ordered one for both home and work. My biggest complaint at this point remains the error when looking towards the sides of my screen, which seems like it ought to be fixable in software. Tobii does update the software pretty regularly, so hopefully they will get to this at some point!

9 thoughts on “Tobii Eye Tracker 4C Review”

  1. Hey, this is unrelated to this, post but have you gotten a chance to try out I have yet to find a review/ footage of actual use of the program outside voicecodes own youtube. And am a little hesitant to drop $300 on something without 3rd party reviews. If you have used it how is it? Blogs like yours give me hope that I wont have to stop coding! Anyway,,, Let me know:)

    1. I haven’t used it. It looks interesting, but also a totally different language than I use so it would be a major effort to try it out and give it a fair review. If anyone has tested it please post your experience!

    1. Indeed, I have had one of these for a while, but I haven’t spent more than about an hour working with it. Personally, I found that it was uncomfortable having to carefully position my head (but easy to do so with my eyes).

      Here’s an interesting hybrid product that I recently learned about (haven’t yet tried):

      1. Thanks for that info!

        Both TrackIr and Tobii (4c) insist on their websites that their products aren’t meant to be used as mouse alternative out of games, did you have to do much to get it working as an all round alternative? Were they just saying that to cover themselves from a product guarantee perspective?

        I’m disabled and I’m doing the research to get myself a full hands-free coding setup in the next few months to do python.

        1. What this mostly means is that they don’t come out of the box with software that makes it easy to use them as accessibility devices (e.g. as a mouse). In practice, as long as they have an API, then you can do whatever you want with them if you are willing to write code. In my case, I use a voice command which causes the cursor to jump to wherever I’m looking. I actually prefer that to having it automatically move around, but that’s perhaps because I don’t use it that much (I mostly use direct voice commands).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Markdown is supported. Make sure raw < and > are wrapped in code blocks. You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.