Whenever someone asks for recommendations on what head tracker to use there’s usually a range of suggestions but it almost always boils down to a duality: TrackIR (and the many third party solutions) or VR. But what if there was something else out there that could translate your head movement into your sim of choice and you didn’t have to wear anything on your head to achieve it. Turns out there just might be a solution! Its name? The Tobii Eye Tracker 5. This three-part review will first focus on basic setup, then we’ll do my first impressions, followed by a full review.
I reached out to Tobii’s PR reps and asked to review their eye tracker. They agreed and sent me one for review. As always with these reviews, I like to reveal how these things get done. I also want to repeat as I always do that my thoughts are my own and that Tobii’s reps get to read this at the same time as you do.
What is it?
The folks at Tobii have been making eye and head tracking hardware and software for a while now. Headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, Tobii makes devices for both productivity and gaming. The Eye Tracker 5 is the latest in a line of trackers and replaces their previous iteration, the Eye Tracker 4C, in the product line-up.
The core of the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 is the tracking unit itself. It’s a sleek bar shaped unit that is intended to be affixed to the bottom of a screen. Three sets of sensors across the unit project infra-red light and a camera uses that light, together with some fancy software, to track not only the position of your head but also of your eyes – a notable departure from other tracking units.
The other advantage here is that this unit exists independently of any other devices. A headset or hat with IR lights or reflectors is not required. Just start a game and it will track your head and eyes directly.
Shipping experience and what’s in the box?
Tobii sent me the review unit via mail and it arrived in a standard shipping box with Tobii branded tape. Inside is the branded box with their company’s preferred purple/deep blue scheme.
The product box is exceptionally well packaged which gave me the feeling of confidence that everything inside arrived in one piece. Tobii has also invested in making sure that the unboxing process was something similar to what you might find with a company like Razer or Apple. Everything is nicely packaged and presented.
Opening it up and you’ll find the accessories in a three-way folded piece sitting on the top. The Eye Tracker 5 itself was tucked away underneath. Instructions on how to install everything are written on the flaps of the accessories holder. Everything is visually described so it can be understood in any language.
The accessories include a USB extension cable, two magnetic flat mounts, one flex mount, and some documentation.
- Tobii Eye Tracker 5
- USB extension cable
- Two magnetic flat mounts
- One flex mount
- Warranty and safety documentation
- How to get started
I have a few comments to make about Tobii’s hardware.
First, the Eye Tracker 5 unit itself is impressive. Although its not a piece of hardware that you’ll need to interact with physically very often, the unit feels very solid when held. The look of it works to its credit as well as it looks sleek, is minimally branded, and once affixed to your monitor blends in and looks like it belongs in your setup. Aside from the minimally glowing red lights, I hardly notice it anymore which is exactly what you want.
I used the flex mount to stick the unit beneath my monitor. This was a pretty straightforward process as it uses two adhesive strips to stick itself underneath there. No tools or grips required to keep it in place. The only caveat is if your monitor lacks a flat surface underneath in which case you’ll need to get a bit more creative. I’ve had it attached for a few months now and its never slipped or moved at all even though all of the heat and humidity that I’ve been experiencing recently.
I also really appreciate the USB extension cable. They didn’t need to ship one but its something I needed to get the connector to reach my tower which is located under my computer table.
The setup process is relatively straight forward. Once the unit itself is affixed on your monitor and you’ve got everything plugged in, the next thing you need to do is software related. Tobii are using modern Windows software packages so the hardware should automatically seek out and install itself with minimal fuss via Windows Update.
If it doesn’t, you can also install it via the Tobii Software Downloads page on their website.
The only software that you absolutely need to have installed is called Tobii Experience. This is a slick piece of software that mostly just sits in the background. You do need it to get the setup process which will verify that your hardware is working, that it’s calibrated to the monitor position correctly, and that it can see your eyes. It also has a cool feature where it can be used to preview your gaze on the screen with a bubble and you can see just how quick the feature is with finding the spot on the screen where your eyes are tracking.
The other optional piece of software is called Tobii Game Hub. This is a companion piece that lets you setup profiles for software and then configure them there. I’ll have more to say about this with my follow-up review pieces.
Finally, if you love the bubbles that the Tobii Experience software previews, you can also download Tobii Ghost. This is intended for streamers and it lets your audience see where your eyes are tracking. Cool but otherwise not necessary! And to answer the question on if those bubbles are normally on the screen, the answer is no, that’s not the default. But it is a good way to verify that what you’re looking at is what the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 thinks you’re looking at.
That’s the basic hardware setup process!
I’ve got two more parts coming up. I’m going to do an early impressions follow-up coming very soon that will give you some insights on how the Tobii is working for me so far and how I’ve set it up with some of the supported sims that I and many of you use. That will be followed-up later with a complete review that gives you my whole experience. I have videos showing off the tracking software so that you can see it in action too.
I also want to open the door to your questions right now. What do you want to know about the Tobii? Are you interested in something like this? Let me see if I can help!