LAS VEGAS -- After spending years thinking live game streaming was kind of pointless, I've officially changed my tune. A demo of the SteelSeries Sentry eye-tracking camera has converted me to the Church of Game Streaming.
Watching a game stream can often lead to flashbacks of being eight years old and the struggle of seeing an older sibling hog the controller and lead Mega Man to his doom. By tracking the eye movement of the gamer and then showing it as on overlay on the stream, the SteelSeries Sentry immediately gives viewers a visceral voyeuristic thrill.
The Sentry uses EyeX architecture, developed by Tobii, to track the player's eyes. We were delighted to learn that the unit's infrared sensors have no problems working with user who wear glasses. They also work for the visually impaired, as a dominant eye can be selected for tracking.
Creating a user profile was a little nervewracking, though. For the camera to learn a user's eye movements, it requires him or her to follow a very small dot onscreen for 20 to 30 seconds. This glasses-wearing gamer found herself flashing back to more than one eye exam as the process went on.
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However, once the setup was complete, it was a two-click process from the setup page to live streaming. Finicky users can take time to customize the reticule -- the crosshairs -- they will see for eye tracking during a stream. SteelSeries had six options available for demonstration, but assured us that customization would be a priority and suggested that users could even use a transparent version of their own face as a reticule in the future.
We sat in on an ongoing stream of Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle game, and were able to quickly notice if the streamer was too focused on their minimap or ignoring their cooldowns. The addition of eye tracking lets the viewer become more involved. In competitive games, that means viewers can study their favorites to better understand while they play, or even call out bad guys and other players they know the streamer hasn't seen.
SteelSeries has also developed a secondary function for the Sentry, the Steel Sentry Game Analyzer. It allows gamers to rewatch their own streams and receive detailed readouts on their activities. While this will be worthwhile for only the most hardcore of the "casual" set, it could become an absolutely critical training tool for competitive gamers.
Currently, the feature is only available for Starcraft 2 and Dota 2, but SteelSeries hopes to make it available for other competitive games, like Counter Strike: Global Offensive, in the future. Students and perpetual slackers beware! SteelSeries representatives agreed that this setup could be adapted for nosy bosses, curious teachers and satellite parents.
The SteelSeries Sentry is shipping now in the United States for $200. Keep reading Tom's Guide for our in-depth review in the coming weeks.
Alex Cranz is the Assistant Reviews Editor at Tom’s Guide. When she’s not devising tests for new tech she’s figuring out the best way to run Plex on it. Follow Alex @alexhcranz. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.