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Apple Patents Eye-Tracking Tech for iOS, Mac

Apple's current iPhones, iPads and Macs already tout rich, sharp displays, but a future form of eye-tracking tech could make the viewing experience even better. The Cupertino company has been awarded a patent for a system that would track the user's gaze, preventing a common perceptual problem in which peripheral vision fades when focusing on a fixed point.

The patent, designated No. 8,937,591 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, is designed to counteract an effect known as Troxler fading, in which objects surrounding the user's point of focus (such as a mouse cursor) seem to fade away. Apple notes that the effect could be stopped by an eye-tracking apparatus, which would regularly update the user interface of, say, an iOS or Mac device, in order to keep items in the user's peripheral vision from fading away.

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In order to track eye movements as accurately as possible, Apple's proposed apparatus may be able to detect when someone is blinking and then analyze their pupils and eye pigment via an infrared transmitter. All of these systems would work together to present the "moveable indicator" (or cursor) in a way that surrounding images won't appear distorted.

In the patent application, filed in 2012, Apple stated that its eye-tracking apparatus could come to the iPhone, iPad and MacBook, as well as vehicles, gaming consoles and "any other devices capable of rendering and displaying a GUI," or graphical user interface.

While this patent seems primarily designed to improve a user's viewing experience, the company's proposed eye-track apparatus has a range of potential uses. Just imagine opening an app by looking at an icon and blinking, or controlling a game with your eyes alone.