Publisher Ubisoft–in partnership with eye tracking technology developer Tobii–announced today that the PC version of Tom Clancy’s The Division will include integrated eye tracking functionality when the game launches on March 8. Players who own compatible sensors like Tobii’s EyeX or the SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker will be able to toggle a number of gameplay features specifically designed to capitalize on eye tracking technology.
For example, HUD elements like the mini-map will turn opaque and fade into the background when players aren’t looking directly at them, though they won’t disappear entirely. When players look towards a far edge of the screen, the camera will shift in that direction, altering the field of view to include areas that were previously just slightly off screen.
Players can also use eye tracking more actively during moment-to-moment gameplay. Simply looking at an enemy automatically tags him with a marker, allowing teammates to spot that enemy more easily. Instead of using a mouse or thumbstick, players can select pieces of cover by scanning the environment with their eyes, automatically producing button prompts on cover-eligible objects. And as you might expect, looking at an enemy before aiming down sight moves the reticle over that enemy.
During a recent hands-on demo, Tobii’s technology worked exactly as advertised. There was no headgear of any kind, only a small sensor bar loaded with lights and cameras. In order to use the system, I simply sat in front of a laptop and looked at a series of dots without moving my head. The calibration process took less than 30 seconds, and my results were saved for future use, meaning you won’t need to recalibrate the system when switching between existing users.
Once I was all set up, the eye tracking display proved eerily accurate, charting my gaze with plenty of precision but very little latency. In game, I found The Division’s eye tracking features to be pleasantly intuitive. Aiming by simply looking at an enemy not only worked but allowed for a more immediate and accurate reaction than I can generally achieve by moving the reticle with a thumbstick–which makes sense given that you’re removing a step from the process. Rather than looking with your eyes then aiming with your thumbs, looking and aiming become the same action.
Generally speaking, you can point with your eyes but must still use a controller to act, which made for a more natural transition. I was confidently aiming, swapping cover, and shifting the edges of the screen within just a few minutes. The team behind The Division wisely chose simple, natural applications. But did eye tracking drastically change the way the game played or enhance my experience in a profound way? Not really. It’s novel and even useful, and maybe given more time with the system I’d grow even more reliant on it. But for now, I don’t necessarily see myself rushing out to buy my own sensor bar when The Division launches.
Still, Tobii’s eye tracking definitely works, and The Division includes the technology in a thoughtful way. I could envision eye tracking becoming an integral part of the experience for certain players, and there’s room for this technology to expand going forward. According to Tobii representatives, as many as 100 games will incorporate eye tracking features by the end of the year, including Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. A wearable eye tracking headset and VR integration are currently in development as well.