Apple Buying Eye-Tracking Devices

Reporting by Martha Sanchez

Apple is buying eye-tracking technology from Tobii Technology, a Stockholm-based startup that just closed a $21.5 million Series B financing from venture capitalists, according to company founder John Elvesjö.

Tobii Technology’s eye tracker can be imbedded into a device or used to measure the efficacy of advertisements, applications and websites.

Tobii’s products are expensive. Building an integrated system for the technology today costs between $7,000 and $35,000 but could theoretically be driven down to the cost equivalent to that of an imbedded digital camera lens, says Elvesjö. “This is something that you can go to consumer deployment with in three years,” says Amadeus Capital investor Jeppe Zink.

Zink says Tobii has sold to Internet portals. “There’s not a single of the names in the Internet world that hasn’t bought Tobii’s eye-trackers and is doing whatever they do with them,” he says.

But the company has also worked on consumer-focused applications, including automatic text scrolling as a user reads a screen, says Zink. That could be useful for a product like the Kindle, he says.

The technology won’t turn up in mobile devices any time soon, says Elvesjö, but could show up in high-end desktops and laptops in the near future.

Sony has also purchased Tobii eye-tracking units, says Elvesjö.

Company investors include Investor Growth Capital, Amadeus Capital and Northzone.