Tobii Eye Tracker 5 review part two: Early impressions and giveaway!

It’s time for part two of my hardware review of the Tobii Eye Tracker 5. If you missed part one, an unboxing and setup review, you should check that out here. Now, to part two I give my early impressions of the eye tracker and begin to work on an answer on if this is a true replacement for systems like TrackIR. I also answer several of the questions that came up in part one. And, if that wasn’t enough, Tobii have also decided to allow me to put together a give-away. Check at the bottom of this review for details on that. So, on with my early impressions!

What’s it like

For the most part, Tobii works just like a TrackIR/OpenTrack setup where moving your head slightly will be multiplied depending on your settings so that you can look to the side or behind your aircraft with just a slight head movement.

So far in my testing, the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 has performed very well. It’s fast, smooth, responsive but it does take time to get it setup just right. This isn’t that different from TrackIR or a VR setup, however, I feel like some reviews have given the setup the short end of the stick by not working with the available tools to get it dialed in right for their preferences. Admittedly, it might take a bit longer to sort out than other options.

Part of that dialing in process is because the Tobii doesn’t just track your head position but also your eye position. In some applications, tracking your eyes more than your head would be preferential, however, in my experience with flight sims you want the opposite. Finding just the right configuration is important or you could get a very jittery experience which is what I think some have experienced with the Tobii. Get it right, however, and its as I said above: fast, smooth, and accurate. On my system, I’ve experienced little to no lag with the system either and certainly nothing that seems to be any slower or faster than my OpenTrack setup.

There are two quirks. The first is that there’s always seemingly a center deadzone. I prefer it this way but I know some people like to have their head a little more free floating and I haven’t found a way to do that. Second, while up and down and left and right work very smoothly, going on the diagonal sometimes feels a little sluggish. It’s less of an issue with a civil sim but with a combat sim like DCS it may be a bit awkward at times. This may yet again be an issue that I just need to tweak in my settings.

On the flipside, because the tracker doesn’t rely on three IR LEDs on the side of your head like with TrackIR/OpenTrack solutions, the movement left and right is essentially symmetrical and there are no deadspots provided that the tracker can see you and its mounted properly. Like with all solutions, if your cat decides to sit infront of the tracker or if your joystick setup gets in the way of seeing your head this might be a problem.

Tweaking the setup

In my setup, I have set it up so that my head is doing roughly 90-95% of the work moving my overall viewpoint around the screen. This feels very much like a TrackIR/OpenTrack setup and in this configuration it feels just as responsive with only a small amount of lag in my experience. Others have reported more lag here but I frankly haven’t felt it.

Then, while using my eyes, I also have the ability to fine tune what I’m looking with their position adjusting the view in much smaller amounts. I did find reversing the configuration with my eyes doing most of the work to offer a more jumpy experience – that may very well be just how my eyes are scanning the screen and your experience will differ.

Your hardware setup might matter too. According to Tobii, the provided mount will fit and work on a curved screen provided there is a flat surface to attach to. They also say that there is a limited range of supported screensizes. According to Tobii, 27 inches with a 16:9 Aspect Ratio or 30 inches with a 21:9 Aspect Ratio are the recommended size. My Gigabyte M32U monitor is 32 inches and 16:9 and the Tobii tracker is able to read my eyes right to the edge of the screen. So this seems to be of limited issue – at least for simming.

You may be wondering what the tracking looks like in action so I have prepared three videos with a brief montage of what the tracking looks like in action. Starting with DCS World.

Then, see it in action with X-Plane 11.

Finally, check it out with Microsoft Flight Simulator.

I know some of these may be of limited use as you can’t see my head, however, I thought it important to show that the movement can be smooth and precise.

Compatibility

Tobii lists 169 games on their website as having Tobii Eye Tracker support. That, as it turns out, is a bit more complicated than it may first appear. There are plenty of titles listed as having support, however, not all of them support every piece of hardware or software revision. Some titles, as I discovered, may have limited or no longer have support anymore. There’s a caveat for us flight simmers on that point too so hang on for just a moment while I explore this point.

The three that I do have the setup working with currently are Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane 11 and DCS World.

Microsoft Flight Simulator was a bit difficult to manage at first but the solution was simpler than I expected. I used the Tobii Game Hub to try and find the MSFS executable only to be stymied by the unique way that the Windows Store installs software. I thought all hope was lost but then realized that the Tobii device is actually listed and recognized within the sim itself. The available sensitivity adjustments within MSFS also more than adequate to dial in a setting that works for you.

DCS World proved a challenge too although its not the Tobii eye tracker that was at fault. This may affect some of you while others won’t be affected at all so I wanted to document it. Turns out, in DCS World, my OpenTrack install was conflicting with the Tobii Game Hub software and preventing tracking. Even with OpenTrack not running it still seemed to be dominant over the head tracking in DCS. Removing OpenTrack from my system solved the problem immediately and head and eye tracking adjustments are done from within the Tobii Game Hub.

X-Plane 11 has long been listed as having support but it is only a recent update to the Tobii Game Hub that gave it full official support. Tobii Game Hub found my X-Plane install directory, asked me if I wanted to install the plugin, and let me start using its head and eye tracking features almost immediately. X-Plane 12 I would hope will have a similar support option very soon.

IL-2: Battle of Stalingrad also appears on the list, however, support for it in the Game Hub appears to have been dropped. A message reads the following:

Please note that this game uses vJoy which is no longer supported in Game Hub 2.3.1 or later. For the last working version, download Tobii Game Hub 1.6.4. Unfortunately due to underlying issues with vJoy, Tobii cannot guarantee working functionality.

That is a bit disappointing, however, there is a potential solution out there. FaceTrackNoIR has a Tobii compatibility mode now available that should make the tracker and virtually any headtracking software that works with it functional. I have not yet tested this as a solution but some have reported it as such and this will be a feature in my full review.

Accessibility and convenience

Something that I really appreciate about the Tobii is the ease of use once it is setup. With my Delanclip setup (very similar to TrackIR), I’d need to load up OpenTrack, put the headset on, verify that the setup could see my tracking lights and then start up my sim of choice.

With the Tobii software running unobtrusively in the background I just start my sim of choice and start flying. I don’t have to wear anything on my head and I don’t need to start up anything else to get it going. If I do decide to disable the tracker until I’m ready, its just a couple of clicks in Tobii Experience to get things going. It’s a small thing but it is a nice thing to be sure!

There’s also an accessibility aspect here that may matter to some flight simmers. Not wearing something on my head is actually part of the reason why I was drawn to test the Tobii specifically.

Recently I’ve developed some back and neck issues to the point where wearing a headset for any length of time can be a painful experience. A VR headset would likely be even worse. So, something like the Tobii offers a whole other experience freeing my head from any added weight – and thus any extra pain and discomfort.

I know many simmers have different challenges with their setup and while VR is great for some, and TrackIR might be great for others, Tobii offers another option and regular readers know that I love to know what all of the options are!

Answering your questions

Several of you commented on part one with some excellent questions. I have captured as many as I could and have attempted to answer them here.

Does it amplify your head movements like the Track IR?

Yes, Tobii can be setup to work just like a TrackIR where you move your head slightly and the movement is exaggerated in the sim. You can do this with your head, your eyes, or a combination of both.

Does it recognize the game automatically?

Yes, for supported games that have been setup, you can just load in and it will automatically recognize and use your specific profile as determined either within the game or by the Tobii Game Hub.

Does it need good lighting conditions to operate?

Because the system is projecting its own IR lighting that you can’t otherwise see, no, it seems to have no problem tracking my head in the dark, in bright conditions with the sun streaming in, and everything in between. I’ve had no issues at all.

Does it lose your head when moving around?

In my experience, Tobii has been more reliable at tracking my head position than my OpenTrack/Delanclip setup. There were usually spots where the LED lights had a bit of a crossover and the tracker would get confused. No such problem with the Tobii.

How accurate does the system track compared to TrackIR?

I find the Tobii is a little bit less accurate than the TrackIR systems that I’ve previously used. That slightly less precision can be made up for by using eye tracking which seems to let you dial in your exact view a little more easily, however, it can throw you off while trying to click small switches or buttons in a clickable cockpit especially if you’re prone to more frequent eye movements. This seems to be very unique to each person who uses it.

Do the IR lights turn off?

While it tracks your head and eyes, the IR lights will be on and you will see the red glow on the front. If you leave your desk and walk away, the system will shut itself down and power off until it detects your face again. You can shut the system off in the Tobii Experience software with a quick toggle switch.

Give away!

The folks at Tobii have offered up a give-away to readers of Stormbirds.blog and here’s how it’s going to work.

To enter into the contest:

  • Write the following comment on this blog post: “I want to enter”

That’s it. I will wait a full week before picking the winner. I will then put everyone who commented into a list, run a random number generator, and get the winner based on the number that they come up with. I will then connect with the winner and we’ll take it from there. If I am not able to establish contact after 72-hours I will then re-roll the random number generator and pick a new winner. Fair? Fair! Good luck!

Update: To make sure this goes to a flight sim enthusiast (of any level), a skill testing question will be asked. Be ready.

More testing ahead

More testing is ahead before the final review lands, however, so far I’m impressed with this as an alternative solution that is not VR and also not TrackIR but something else altogether. This isn’t a perfect setup but I would say already that the Tobii Eye Tracker 5 is a strong contender with its share of pros and cons depending on the sim that you want to use it with.

There’s much more to dig into to see if this is a true alternative so stay tuned for more!

In the meantime, if you want to pick one up to see for yourself, be sure to click this link for the affiliate link for Stormbirds.blog.

54 Comments Add yours

  1. Ollifreund Popcorn says:

    I want to enter!

    Like

  2. Ken-Dagfinn Rian says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  3. Stoph says:

    I want to enter!

    Like

  4. NineLine says:

    Just a heads up as far as DCS World is concerned, we are looking at better implementation with DCS, we are working with them on this now. Thanks.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That’s great and exciting news! Thanks!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. padinn says:

        There is a work around for the issue with open-track. In face track NOIR I tell it to hide trackIR. There is also a setting in open-faced to clear registry entries when stopped, I’m forgetting exactly where, but its a checkbkx somewhere. That fixed this issue happening for me in IL2.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. marcocom says:

      Thanks for the update!
      Im happy with TrackIR, but the fact that theyre completely silent on driver and hardware updates for the past decade now makes me nervous to have a decent fallback available to us! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul Leonard says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  6. Linus Kuplast says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  7. Apoll says:

    I want tp enter.

    Like

  8. padinn says:

    For IL2, I have found running FacetrackNOIR and outputting it’s tracking info to Opentrack is the best option – otherwise your vertical head movement is very limited.

    Like

  9. padinn says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  10. Picchio says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  11. Raptorattacker says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  12. Raptorattacker says:

    … and just as an aside, a great review! I’m intrigued!!

    Like

  13. jonathansvk says:

    I want to enter
    Will Tobii also work on a 24″ monitor?
    How about zooming in?
    If I invented a mount for the top of the monitor, would the Tobii work there too?

    Like

    1. Wildvalach says:

      It only works under the monitor, I tried to put it on top of the monitor but it doesn’t work.

      Like

  14. nGabor says:

    My first comment seems not show up, so hereby I try again:
    I want to enter

    Like

  15. De Raketman says:

    I want to enter.

    Long time reader btw, love your posts!

    Like

  16. infectedmephz says:

    I want to enter

    Thanks for the review by the way, I like the idea of a TrackIR alternative that needs to attachments on your head

    Like

  17. Stewmanji says:

    Another great reviews, as always! I’ve enjoyed TrackIR for a long-time now but the ability to go without a headset, as you mentioned, is very appealing.

    And of course: “I want to enter!”

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Merajito says:

    Tobii has always been really interesting of a product since I first seen it being used for Star Citizen before I finally got into DCS. Neat to see how its advancing

    I want to enter

    Like

  19. Rob Headlam says:

    I want to enter.

    Really interested in the tech – never got on with VR so Tobii may be the way to go.

    Like

  20. Jeroen says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  21. I want to enter!

    I’ve been using a Smoothtrack setup for a while now, and I think it’s great. I’m curious if you’ve tried that out long enough to compare it against the Tobii.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      No, I’ve never used Smoothtrack but that’d be an interesting point of comparison.

      Like

      1. It’s really easy to set up if you own a smartphone and you’ve already got Opentrack working. Mostly I’m curious if there’s a difference in latency between the two. I’d expect Tobii to be a little more responsive, but I don’t know whether it’s going to be noticeable.

        Like

  22. Pequod says:

    Your blog is simply the BEST.
    Oh, and I want to enter!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Gillers says:

    I want to enter.
    Very good review of this, like everything set up and tweaking is important.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Bad Randolf says:

    Sadly my last comment didn’t got through 😀 i was very interested in the tobii eye review (especially for the ease of use), in comparison to track ir. Seems to be a very good alternative. Thanks for the in depth review. Also…

    I want to enter.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks for the comments. Appreciate them!

      A lot of comments are not coming through right now because someone thought it’d be funny to spam the comments section. Going to take me a while to sort it out.

      Like

  25. boxcarleader says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  26. boxcarleader says:

    This seems like it may fit my simming better with my current setup. But since I have more necessary purchases in the near future I will go for a win or get it at a later point when finances allow plz keep up the awesome work on you blogs

    Liked by 1 person

  27. handini says:

    I want to enter
    My delanclip is finnicky and I really wish I at least got the wireless version, but headsets give me headaches fast, so this’ll be nice for casually playing dcs, elite, sc, and others

    Like

  28. Atreides says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  29. Kaneka says:

    I want to enter!

    Like

  30. Pseudotsuga says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  31. Wildvalach says:

    Hi, thank you for the article. Unfortunately, I don’t have such a positive experience with Tobii in DCS World. I have a 27 monitor + small touch monitor with Helios. When I set Tobii to only track the head, the cockpit is in the center of the main monitor, but when I also turn on the eye tracking, the cockpit is off-center to the right and cannot be centered. Another problem is flying in formation when you follow the leader with your head and jump to the HUD with your eyes, Tobii moves the image to the HUD and you lose visual contact with the leader, after an hour of flight it hurt my eyes.
    I was disappointed with the attachment method. After two days, I came to the monitor in the morning and Tobii was lying under the monitor, so I had to figure out how to hold it better, a product for 200 euros and a holder for one euro.

    Like

    1. Wildvalach says:

      Other issues are well described by TF-62 Gaming under his Youtube video.

      TF-62 Gaming
      8 months ago
      One critical thing missing from the Tobii software is the ability not to mirror settings on both sides of the center. TrackIR allows it and once I used that capability, it improved my experience immensely. Most importantly in the vertical plane, you want quick motion outside the cockpit but slower and smoother inside (below center).

      Without that functionality, Tobii is inferior in its ability to customize. But that can be solved simply through better software. Using Tobii for any flight sim really requires this capability.

      Like

  32. cG.Fu* says:

    I want to enter.

    Thanks for conducting the review!

    Like

  33. Toby Rayfield says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  34. toby says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  35. Cukrrak says:

    I reckon this is probably the best solution that doesn’t require a clip/hat etc. strapped to one’s head. Thanks for the giveaway, and since my previous comment didn’t get through:

    I want to enter

    Like

  36. Reinhard Eichler says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  37. Deorwen says:

    I have been using the EDTracker Pro, which uses a gyro sensor, mounted on a cap. It works well for all the rotations, but I am missing out on the head translations. So now I am considering an upgrade, to either TrackIR 5 or the new Tobii. So I am very keen about your experiences / review and comparison between the two.

    Oh and since my previous comments did not get through:

    I want to enter

    Like

  38. Redglyph says:

    Thanks for the detailed early impressions, it’s very informative!

    I still think I’ll keep TrackIR for the time being, so good luck to all the participants!

    Liked by 2 people

  39. Gordon says:

    I want to enter

    Like

  40. Rolleck says:

    I’m currently using a home made version of a delan clip with opentrack, it’s good and i love using it but I have to admit not fantastic, definately a game changer compared to no head tracking in DCS, and that is why just wanted to say thanks for this kind of review because I just might be looking for a slightly better solution than what I have now!

    I want to enter

    Like

  41. Matt says:

    Tried to comment two times, unfortunately seem to have gotten deleted?

    I want to enter

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Someone has been spamming the system so all comments have to be approved. Going to take me a while to sort it out!

      Like

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