About a decade ago, touchscreen technology revolutionised the way we interact with devices. Since then, the boundaries of sensory controls are being pushed in every direction with invisible controls you can touchaugmented chatbots with learning capabilities, and research centres that use motion capture technologies to support people’s health and wellbeing.

Looking beyond the horizon, one startup is hoping to breakthrough with a new dawn of gaze control. Based in Bath, Actigaze has taken pre-existing eye-tracking hardware and developed new software that allows users to ‘click’ with their eyes, with a speed and accuracy close to that of a mouse.

“It is an indescribable feeling being able to browse the web without lifting a finger.”


Christof-showing-how-to-use-actigaze-technology-at-Bath-Uni.jpgTechSPARK caught up with Actigaze’s co-founder Christof Lutteroth (pictured left) who tells us, “We believe that Actigaze will change the way we interact with electronic devices in the future. It is an indescribable feeling being able to browse the web without lifting a finger.”

The brainchild of Dr Gerald Weber at the University of Auckland and Christof at the University of Bath, Actigaze has received national coverage on the BBC World Service podcast, Click. You can listen to the podcast here from 13.52s – 21.00s, hear the presenters try it out and describe it like “sending rays out from your eyes!”

Drift, jitter and dwell

So how does it work? The software works like normal eye-tracking software, where it detects where your eye is focusing (or ‘dwelling’) to choose the link or button you want to press. Christof tells us, “Say, you would like to click a link on a web page. Gaze trackers cannot detect exactly which link you are looking at.”

This is because the eye focuses on an area on the screen as big as your thumbnail when your hand is extended in front of you, which is a surprisingly large area, and can contain a number of links you could be ‘dwelling’ on, so it’s hard for the software to work out which link you want to click on. Also, the eye never stays still, so the ‘jitters’ and ‘drifting’ of the pupil can confuse the software and send you places you don’t want to go.

Actigaze has found a way around this, as Christof explains: “Actigaze highlights all the links in the approximate area of your gaze with unique colours from a fixed palette of ‘confirm buttons’ in the margin of the screen. If you want to click the link coloured orange and not the green link next to it, all you need to do is look at the orange ‘confirm button’ and then Actigaze knows!”

You can see a video of the tech in action here:


Jamie Middleton using actigaze software at Universtiy of BathOur Editor Jamie Middleton, had a try out for himself. He says, “I was genuinely impressed. It was definitely as fast as using a mouse, if not faster, and I was surprised at how quickly I adapted to using my eyes instead of a mouse to navigate through Wikipedia.”

I see what you did there

It’s only with recent developments in eye-tracking tech that Actigaze has been able to create this solution, allowing it to commercialise gaze technologies and make it available to all. The off-the-shelf hardware that now costs £100-£200 used to cost closer to £10,000, and the software also wasn’t up to scratch.

Actigaze hardwareChristof tells us, “Gerald and I had been investigating different techniques for clicking with eye gaze for more than 5 years and found the existing gaze clicking technologies to be either too slow or inaccurate.”

Another challenge that faces gaze interaction designers is overcoming the Midas touch – a phenomenon of clicking everything unintentionally, just as king Midas turned anything he touched into gold, which turned out to be a problem for him.

Now, though, Christof believes that Actigaze is close to achieving a product ready for market with user studies of those trialling its latest eye-activated Actigaze technology saying that because of the ease of navigating with just their eyes “suddenly the mouse felt clumsy and heavy”.

If you compare the capabilities of Actigaze’s dwell clicking function (1.5 seconds) to that of a mouse (1.1 seconds) and pre-existing software (+2 seconds), you can see the team are on to something.

“Visitors were using Actigaze in a gaze-controlled information kiosk”


actigaze screen shot of wikipediaBecause of this progression, Christof lists off the achievements and successes that have come their way. “This has been an exciting year for us. In February, Actigaze was featured in an exhibition at the New Zealand Museum of Transport and Technology. Visitors were using Actigaze in a gaze-controlled information kiosk. In May, we won a prize in a business competition, the Velocity Innovation Challenge. In June Actigaze won the Health Tech Award from the New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence in Medical Technology, and an interview on Actigaze was featured in the New Zealand TV3 News.”

Looking forward

Most people spend a lot of their day browsing through information, be it email, social media or the web in general. But this isn’t the only application the team have in their mind’s eye. They say, “Actigaze can support professionals who need to have both hands free or who want to avoid contamination by touch.” [Texting and browsing Facebook in the bath, anyone?]

“The University has a strong research profile in Computer Science, with a great location and a track record of innovation”


To make gaze tech mainstream, Actigaze made the decision to move to Bath. Christof tells us, “The University has a strong research profile in Computer Science, with a great location and a track record of innovation. By setting up at Bath we aim to develop our IP further and reach out to the UK and European markets.”

The team are reaching out to potential partners who have ideas to develop this further, “We are in contact with potential partners in some exciting areas, including eye gaze control in cars and for robotic surgery. We are happy to demonstrate the technology to interested parties, so please contact us.”

If you would like to find out more, visit the Actigaze website and sign up to the mailing list to get all the latest news. The Actigaze team are actively looking for commercial investment and partnerships and are happy to provide demos of the Actigaze technology. To arrange a demo, please contact them by email at info@actigaze.com.

[Image credit: AP Commercial Photography]