Intel has reportedly invested $20.8 million for a 10% stake in Tobii Technologies, a Swedish firm that develops eye-tracking laptops and other devices. Tobii has been showing off their ability translate eye motion into user input for a few years now, but they caught quite a bit of attention at CES with a demo of their "gaze interface", which let users navigate a Windows 8 laptop merely by moving their eyes. It was quite accurate too.
More recently at CeBIT, Tobii unveiled the IS-2, an improved version of their eye-tracking device. The IS-2 works by illuminating the user's pupils with small infrared projectors. Special cameras will then track the user's eyes, computing the position and angle of the glance to determine exactly where the person is looking and translating that into input. The company says it also plans to leverage its eye-tracking expertise to improve 3D display technology by utilizing pupil positioning to tailor 3D images to the user -- no glasses needed.
Up until now the technology has mainly used for advertising testing and as aids for the physically disabled. It's still too expensive for mass adoption, but Intel is betting that the technology will eventually become an integral part in ordinary consumer electronics and other markets. Apparently, they are not alone making that bet since Tobii had already reised more than $40 million in two previous rounds of funding.
The recent investment by Intel gives a valuation of around $200 million for the 12-year-old company.