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The Apple of Your Eye? June 28, 2017

Posted by Jon Ward in eye tracking, Tobii.
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The newswires are buzzing along with the fact the SMI (our biggest competitor in the market place you might suggest) have been purchased by Apple for reasons currently unknown, at least publically. So what does this mean for the industry, for Tobii, and of course customers and users of their technology.

Firstly, from a technology perspective this is a hugely positive thing. While Apple typically lock down their infrastructure and architecture to their app store, hardware and OS the fact they have made a move to buy one of the larger players in the field reinforces the fact the eye tracking is a technology on the rise, one that will only increase its presence in our daily life. If we look at Facebook’s acquisition of Eye Tribe (via Oculus) and Google purchasing Eyefluence all of the big tech players are buying into eye tracking. In a big way. Whether it is for research purposes, interaction or to optimise hardware performance there is obvious value and ROI by including eye tracking and everyone is getting on board.

From  Tobii’s perspective it can be seen two ways. The obvious one is “Hooray!” one of the biggest competitors we see on a daily basis are no longer around, so of course we would hope to serve more customers and we are confident that we have the technology, products and capability to ensure their needs are met. From the other angle, not having someone just around the corner, pushing you, innovating, driving you to develop can be a bad thing. Google had Yahoo (at one stage!) amongst other suitors to the throne, Apple had Microsoft (or vice versa) and Commodore had Sinclair (retro throwback for some!) – these rivalries help push things forward, to be the best and without that driver you need to push yourself. Am I confident that Tobii will do this? Yes. Why? Because we feedback our thoughts and ideas regularly into design and planning meetings, we collate requests from our customers and pass that on and the team in Sweden and beyond are committed to eye tracking across all markets – from gaming interaction to research, from VR to accessibility.

A little more of a grey area is where does this leave SMI’s customer base? Will Apple continue to sell research products? I doubt it. Their other acquisitions have all been absorbed into the behemoth from Cupertino. What about support? Software updates? Repairs? How about people who have just purchased or are about to purchase a system? I am sure with time there will be more information released and maybe some long-term planning to cover all these aspects. At Acuity we would be happy to help out where we can, of course we would be keen to sell people a new system or assist with a quote (in fact we are also pleased to offer a trade in for existing SMI users to upgrade their systems to one of the Tobii platforms, with access to support, updates and future innovations), but we will happily help with other enquiries, we have experience with SMI’s BeGaze software and we are happy to talk metrics and methodologies so why not get in touch!

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