Microsoft has released four new computer games that people can play using only their eyes. These games, branded Eyes First, use eye-tracking technology to enable people with speech and mobility disabilities to do things on the computer like solve puzzles and negotiate mazes.
There are currently four Eyes First games: Tile Slide, which involves repositioning tiles on an on-screen board; Match Two, a memory game; Double Up, a tile-based math game; and Maze, in which the player navigates an on-screen maze.
These games require a PC running the Windows 10 operating system. To be played eyes-only, they also require a compatible eye-tracking device, such as Tobii 4C. While they’re designed with eye control in mind, they can also be controlled using a mouse or touchscreen.
The Eyes First games are intended to not only provide entertainment, but to help people with certain disabilities practice controlling a computer with their eyes. When they become proficient at using computer eye tracking technology, people with disabilities such as ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries can use it to do things like control wheelchairs.
Steve Gleason, a former pro football player with ALS, provides a good example of this. In 2015, he challenged Microsoft to create a method for people like him to control their wheelchairs with their eyes, and the company responded by including eye-tracking software in its latest operating system. He now uses it to drive his power wheelchair using only his eyes.
“People with speech and mobility disabilities can face limitations in communicating and using computer technology to play, collaborate, engage, and be productive,” says Microsoft’s Bernice You, general manager of strategy and projects, on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog. “With innovation in accessibility technologies, such as Windows 10 Eye Control,” she added, “these limitations can be addressed to unlock the potential of their powerful minds.”
According to Microsoft's Eye Control for Windows 10 page, "Eye Control makes Windows 10 more accessible by empowering people with disabilities to operate an onscreen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech experience using only their eyes."
This story brings to mind an announcement by Lego in April 2019, which outlines their plan to use new Braille Bricks to combat the Braille literacy crisis by making it fun for children to learn Braille. In similar fashion, Microsoft's new games will offer both entertainment and real-world life skills.
All four Eyes First games are free to download.