Controlling your computer with your eyes sounds futuristic. But, it’s already reality. A reality that has been making computing more accessible to people with disabilities for several years. And a reality that could now transform the growing esports industry.
Debuting for the first time during live coverage of the ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier 2017 (above), this past weekend on TBS, the biometric technology offers fans and commentators the ability to visualize the gaze of professional players during match highlights and analysis.
“If this goes well, we may have just developed the equivalent of the slow-motion replay or strike-zone cam for esports,” says David Chen, esports program lead for Alienware & Dell in North America.
If you missed the live show, here’s a video to show you what it was like:
Bringing It All Together
Oscar Werner, president of Tobii Assistive Technologies, talked about the potential for the gaming industry when he discussed the work they were doing with our Dell OEM Solutions team four years ago. And Alienware has featured Tobii eye tracking hardware and software in Alienware 13, 15, 17 notebooks for several years. Alienware 17 was the world’s first notebook to capitalize on eye tracking’s unique ability to identify and anticipate a user’s actions based on their presence and attention.
So when Dell announced a partnership with ELEAGUE, Chen saw the possibility for something groundbreaking. We already support gaming by sponsoring two of the oldest, most established professional teams in the competitive scene (Team Liquid and Team Dignitas) and provide more than 500 systems to various leagues, events and players across the globe.
Why not bring all these things together to drive innovation even further and give fans a glance into the player’s mind during a live event competition?
Going Behind the Scenes
I chatted with Chen recently to learn more about this newest development in our partnership with Tobii and ELEAGUE.
Q: What did it take to bring this all together?
A: A lot of phone calls and emails! The build up to this took a bit of time to coordinate since Tobii is in Sweden, the guys at ELEAGUE are in Atlanta, and I’m in Austin.
I had not really tried the Tobii tech with my own eyes up until June at E3 but I had already watched some of the initial wave of videos that started to pop up online from big-name streamers. Within minutes I could already see the possibilities and I doubled-down on my conversations with ELEAGUE about my desire to bring Tobii into the studio.
Q: When did that finally happen?
A: We had the chance to meet collectively at our Alienware booth at E3 this year to discuss how the technology would come to life and schedule time in the coming days to have the Tobii engineers travel to Atlanta and work their tech into the studio as ELEAGUE would be between tournaments. I still recall the email from ELEAGUE a week later that showed an early video of their success in the studio. Right then I knew we had something great.
I don’t think most people realize the number of variables that had to come together to enable this all to even have a chance at success. From the choice of game, to the abilities of the studio, to the minds of the engineers, and the right sponsor to make this a priority — investment within esports, while booming right now, is still somewhat formulaic and conservative — and we took a major gamble here with a lot of complexity and a limited amount of time.
Q: For someone who doesn’t know anything about eye-tracking technology, how do you explain what this experience will be like?
A: Once the user sits down at the eye-tracked PC and configures the software/sensors to their own eyes – the experience thereafter is pretty simple and magical. It’s almost like wirelessly controlling a mouse cursor on your desktop as you see a ‘GazeTrace’ circular overlay quickly and accurately follow where your eyes land. Within a game that has native eye-tracking support, this can be further shown off by how the game dynamically adjusts your view or user interface (UI) elements depending on where it senses your gaze.
Q: What is Alienware’s involvement?
A: Alienware is a technology facilitator in this arrangement. As the tournament PC and technology partner for ELEAGUE and their studio in Atlanta, we brought the parties to the table. Alienware has equipped the ELEAGUE studio with nearly 100 top-of-the-line Alienware PCs and Alienware monitors to ensure the ELEAGUE pros are able to compete at the highest levels without a hitch. We also have technology used within the ELEAGUE studio to support production, analysis, and the behind-the-scenes eye-tracking magic.
Q: How does this impact the esports teams we sponsor?
A: We’ve already begun seeing more and more esports teams look to understand and define various competitive advantages they can utilize in scouting, recruiting and training. Biometrics and augmented gameplay analytics is one of those advantages for competitive gaming that is still in development and we are proud to say that we are at the forefront of driving some of that work. For Alienware-sponsored esports teams, they can expect to have our continued support for their various PC and hardware needs as well as through the gear and software tools needed to integrate eye-tracking into their coaching and training regimen.
Q: How do you feel this will change the way we watch esports?
A: Candidly we have high hopes that this will change the way esports is broadcast and viewed by fans for the better – however we won’t know for sure until we more time to get it all running smoothly. As competitive esports games are developed, played, and broadcast on the PC platform today, it makes little sense that we have yet to capitalize on all that rich, real-time data from the matches. In a few years’ time, esports should be rivaling professional baseball when it comes to quick data insights, real-time stats, forecasts, projections and more.
Q: What makes you most excited about this personally?
A: I feel like the introduction of this tech is going to bring about a monumental change towards esports eclipsing traditional sports in terms of entertainment value and the overall quality of the production. ESPN and their sports science segments have paved the way towards helping fans to better understand and appreciate the skill, speed, composure and quick cognitive abilities of top athletes. I hope that eye-tracking will be the first of many other ways in which we look to gain even more insight into the conscious or unconscious ways that these esports pros dominate in what they do.
The early reception from fans to our announcement videos have been really positive and they are all generally excited. I know ELEAGUE takes a lot of pride in their work so I’m sure it will look and flow great. If it doesn’t initially, I’m not worried. We have some of the best people working together towards a common goal of driving things forward for the game and for the fans.
David Chen. Hardcore gamer. Hyper-consumer of digital content and news. Esports Program Lead for Alienware & Dell in North America. From managing relationships with the teams and players that rely and train on Alienware PCs, to dreaming up innovative new ideas with esports tournament organizers, David leads our initiatives and partnerships within the rapidly booming esports industry. As a gamer, photographer, esports viewer and fan, the growth of gaming culture and esports awareness in the Western world has presented a variety of new and exciting opportunities that now unites his personal interests with Dell’s global business objectives.
David has spent his entire working career so far within the halls of Dell and Alienware. After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Marketing from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010, he joined Dell soon after to work on North American Marketing team for Alienware and now, the overarching Dell Gaming line of business. Beyond esports management, David also creates content and engages with our community through our Alienware social media pages and channels. Keep up with him directly at @davidchen10 on Twitter.
Learn more about Tobii Eye Tracking, how to set it up and the amazing and immersive in-game capabilities in this video: