back to article Samsung's next smartphone to scroll by watching your eyes

Samsung's next Next Big Thing, the Galaxy S IV smartphone, will scroll text by watching your eyeballs. So says an unidentified Samsung employee tattling to The New York Times' Bits blog, a worthy who "spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media" – a time-honored custom of companies …


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  1. ThomH Silver badge

    Sounds good in theory, but...

    The implementation will need to be very good.

    The central contradiction as I imagine it is that normally you move your eyes to look at something. If moving your eyes also moves the thing then you're getting very unnatural feedback.

    If they solve that by having the scrolling occur only when you look at certain areas of the screen — e.g. look at the bottom to scroll down, return your eyes to the main portion to stop — then you have to judge when to stop based on peripheral vision.

    Supposing the people at Samsung have solved these problems then they deserve to be number one.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Sounds good in theory, but...

      I think it's very good that these things are being tried. Features like this have been thought about, written into SciFi and just plotted for quite a while. Actually implementing it is something different entirely, and only through trying can you work out just how well it works or doesn't.

      This is similar to the eye tracking feature that prevents the S3 from sleeping when you're looking at it. It works quite well on most occasions, but by putting it out there on real, live devices the performance can be judged, tweaked and improved based on real life usage rather than lab tests with those who are used to it. This feature can be disabled as well, so I see no reason why this couldn't be either.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Does anybody else think this will be like looking at the floaters in your eye? When one gets near the center of your vision, you move your eye to look at it... and it moves too, since it is in your eye. Attempting to track a floater is pretty much impossible.

  2. Rampant Spaniel

    As long as there is an option to turn it off if it doesn't work well then this could be interesting. I used to love using canon cameras with eye controlled focus (something sorely missing from digital slr's today) it was great for stuff like weddings and surfing shots as it allowed you to recompose shots even quicker. This could turn out to be pretty darn good or it could be hopeless, as long as there is an off switch it's worth a try. Might relieve some thumb \ finger strain :)

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge
      Thumb Up

      That reminds me, I still have half a roll of unfinished film in my EOS 3. Yes, I love the auto eye-tracking focus, but the EOS 3 didn't have enough focus points. Would realy love it on the EOS 5DIII (would be even better if they could move some of the focus points a bit nearer the edges too.

      To be slightly on-topic, the screen stay in the Galaxy Note 1 works very, very nicely. (except sometimes in the dark or if you are looking at a large angle from normal.)

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        The 3 has 45. Are you thinking of the elan7 (also called the eos 7 and eos30 depending on where you hang your hat) which had 7 or the eos 5 / a2e which I think had 5. The eos 3 still is a blinder of a camera! Would love eye controlled focus on a 1dx!

  3. bag o' spanners
    IT Angle

    This could give a whole new meaning to *rolls eyes*

  4. Tony Paulazzo

    iOS 7 really needs to pull its finger out, and I'm guessing Samsung aren't sharing this tech with Google / Android? Which is a shame, everyone needs to reinvent the wheel.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why? this is gimmicky. It's a typical korean idea, they love their devices to have 1 billion different features. In reality it won't work as well as you think and you'll end up switching it off.

      Such things work great in the lab, with great lighting. But when you're using your phone in low light or there's some glare from the sun.

      When have Android OEMs ever shared anything with Google? this is the whole problem with Android. There are three or more sets of people all doing similar things. It's hardly the whole "open source" model where everyone improves things for the greater good. Imagine how shit the Linux kernel would be if every big contributor had their own private branch.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Not exactly helped now by Google only releasing the source code from time to time and having to go through Google to get anything commited. IMAP IDLE? Sometime in the future but in the meantime here's our gmail app which does do push...

      2. g e

        It might be lit by the phone

        As on the S3 the proximity sensor next to the front cam appear to emit IR light (imho) which could then of course double up as illlumination for the front cam in low light for eyeball tracking.

      3. wikkity

        RE: There are three or more sets of people all doing similar things

        Thats a problem? Only an apple or ms user would ever think that this is not good.

      4. wikkity

        RE: own private branch

        They use Git, you can pretty much rely on the fact that the have their own. You think every distro just distributes stock linux? Look about in the open source world and there are loads of competing products.

      5. JaitcH

        And, I presume Apple, does nothing "gimmicky"?

        @Anonymous Coward:

        Little wonder you don't use your real name - and how ignorant you are of others needs.

        I know a person who has spent most of his life with a stick, dripping spittle, picking away at a Saran-wrapped keyboard. He had/has no meaningful movement in his arms.

        The day he acquired a rudimentary voice/text software package was the first day of the nest stage of his life, Dragon Dictating has improved by leaps and bounds, as has my acquaintance's abilities and work output.

        To someone, what you call a gimmick, is another life-changing happening.

        Stephen Hawking, CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA, the UK theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author has achieved more success than many fully able people. And he had technology make his life that more easy.

        Now, with Samsung's technology, and likely quite unintentionally, yet other physically challenged people have gained yet more independence.

        Some gimmick!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And, I presume Apple, does nothing "gimmicky"?

          Wow-- is Hawking a beta tester for Samsung? Care to point us to some proof?

          And where did the OP mention Apple? Typical schoolyard "yeah but the other kids do it too" reasoning. Just shows you don't have anything meaningful to add.

          1. Peshman

            Re: And, I presume Apple, does nothing "gimmicky"?

            AC, I think you miss the point. Just because you see a function as a gimmick doesn't mean that everyone sees it that way. They may have a use for it that you don't. There is nothing to stop you disabling it if you don't need it. It's better to have the option available to you though, isn't it?

      6. Tikimon Silver badge

        Multiple lines of inquiry are good!

        Quoted " this is the whole problem with Android. There are three or more sets of people all doing similar things. It's hardly the whole "open source" model where everyone improves things for the greater good."

        This is EXACTLY what we need! You assume there's one obvious path to Greater Good, and there isn't. We usually have to try a few things and see which works better. "Everyone working together" means all the eggs in one basket, and ONE chance for success. Nope, we NEED different groups working different angles.

        Multiple lines of inquiry, FTW!

  5. Dave 52

    Samsung can't even get edge scrolling with the S Pen on the Note 2 right, so I have no faith they will get this right. I've noticed that all Samsung does is throw half-assed features into their phones and give them zero support after launch. They're all about getting a big marketing splash with piece-in-the-sky features that get them sales, but leave eager buyers shafted.

    1. g e

      Half assed features

      And they're still a superior device for all that, whether or not you can get over that fact.

      And yes I've also used 'competitors' devices before you go misty-eyed and spout the competitor's mantra

  6. DougS Silver badge

    Sounds cool in theory

    But then I think about how when I'm watching TV I'm often half watching and half reading sports news on my phone, and my eyes keep going back to the same place on the screen to read the same paragraph over and over because by trying to do two things at once I'm doing neither well. I'd hate to have that paragraph scroll out of view if its at the bottom of the screen. Or even scroll to the top, since I haven't really registered that paragraph in my brain I sort of need the one I know I've read above it for context to find my place - especially if my place moves without me wanting it.

    This sounds like one of those things that would be cool to impress your friends "hey look what my phone can do" but most people would probably turn it off. If they can make it work well enough that you don't get annoyed by it on a daily basis, they deserve a gold star.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds cool in theory

      So you don;t like the sound of it, don't buy one then, problem solved.

  7. Khaptain Silver badge

    Ideas bases on Pr0n

    One hand holds the phone, the other hand is busy elsewhere. All it takes is a flick of the eyes and the next little pr0n video magically appears before beholder...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ideas bases on Pr0n

      And auto zoom on pictures of boobs

  8. NP-Hardass

    An apple a day....

    I could have sworn that I remember reading that Apple had filed for a patent on this within the last two years. Anyone else remember that/able to pull up a link?

    1. VinceH Silver badge

      Re: An apple a day....

      "I could have sworn that I remember reading that Apple had filed for a patent on this within the last two years. Anyone else remember that/able to pull up a link?"

      I don't remember that but, if they didn't, then a bit of spin and the Apple reality distortion field will be all that's needed.

      1. PsychicMonkey

        Re: An apple a day....

        they probably have a patent for "looking at a screen and it doing things"

        that will pretty much cover it....

      2. NP-Hardass

        Re: An apple a day.... That's what I was thinking of, but it was just eye tracking for a 3D interface...

  9. messele


    Like all these gimmicks it wont work properly and will be switched off.

    Samsung love to chuck everything out there to see what will stick. Fine if you are a geek who is content with doing their testing for them but I'm staying well clear.

    1. Peshman

      Re: Yawn

      Then buy a candy bar phone.

      Surely if it does any more than make a phone call it's a gimmick?

      1. ShadowedOne

        Re: Yawn

        What if it can't make phone calls (like most Apple 'phones')?

        1. M Gale

          Re: Yawn

          Come now. I like to giggle at the iFlaw as much as anybody, but that antenna problem was fixed two iterations ago.

          It's a little like some retard coming along and going "lol Linux, the one where you have to fuck about with some xorg.conf file before you can get out of DOS mode?!"

  10. Minophis

    I am trying to work out how the lawsuit will go. Steve Jobs had eyes and he did used to look at things. Apple will say that Samsung blatantly copied this concept. It makes about as much sense as the rounded corners.

  11. Asiren
    Black Helicopters

    Er... Anyone thought about the camera?

    To use this feature, the user-facing camera will have to be on.

    If it works, they'll use it for the Home Screen, and you can just flick your eyes left/right for the next screen.

    But then the camera will always be on...

    Not sure I'd be happy with that.

    1. g e

      Re: Er... Anyone thought about the camera?

      They can likely turn the camera on for 50mS or something to shoot a frame then off again. It'd probably be the frontcam that does the existing smartstay, too. Doesn't muller my S3 battery.

      Well I say that I always have smartstay on.. more accurate to say I get 2.5 - 3 days (Friday 16.30 to Monday 9am when it's not docked on a desk) out of one charge on it with my usage pattern. Which is perfectly reasonable.

  12. David Evans

    No thanks

    Having sat in on quite a few eye-tracking studies now, I'm pretty certain this will just piss people off because viewing behaviour isn't linear.

  13. Chris 125

    I've got an SIII

    and all those lovely gimmicky features have been binned in favour of a custom ROM that follows a tighter path to the Google AOSP build.

    So I've got rid of Smart Stay (where the screen stays on when you're looking at it - it doesn't work in any real-world lighting situations), Smart Rotate (where the screen doesn't rotate when you're lying on your side reading - again, this is likely to be used in bed with the lights off, and your eyes almost invisible so it doesn't work), all the crappy S-apps like Planner (Google Calender does more, and doesn't look quite so 1997) and the multi-window feature that provides you with two apps so small, neither can be used.

    In return I have better battery life, and some nice apps that do everything I need without looking horrible.

    Samsung do seem fond of coming up with ideas in the lab, and wanting to get them onto a product pronto without any thought about if they're useful or not. Stock Android has much more simplicity going off, and is better for it.

    I miss my Nexus S.

  14. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Wouldn't work for me...

    When I'm reading on a screen (eg El Reg!) I use the scroll wheel so the text I'm actually looking at is in the section between 1/3rd and 2/3rds the way down the screen because that is most comfortable for me.

    Something like this would just annoy the hell out of me and would be switched off PDQ.

  15. Great Bu

    That's not how I read.....

    It might be just me, but when I read something off the screen (whether it be 'phone or monitor) I tend to keep my eyes pretty much on the center of the screen and scroll the text past them as I read, my eyes only tend to go to the bottom of the page when it has reached the bottom of it's scroll range, so I'm not sure how this would work out.....

  16. Robert Ramsay

    Can we have a "What could possibly go wrong?" icon

    I think it would come in handy.

  17. moonface

    Could be a nuisance browsing here. Roll eyes = go back to first ElReg comment.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There are LOTS of things rival equipment can do that ithings can't. Apple tech is stuck in the last decade, like it's owners.

    You really need to take your head out of Apple's ass hole. Your not much of a reporter, all one sided bolox with zero knowledge to what is actually going on around you. Lets hope it's not iGlasses next, or you'll be totally blind.

  19. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Trademarked? Really?

    I wonder how this will sit with those people developing for the disabled? There's been eye tracking technology around for ages. It's not new. I suspect "on a mobile device" isn't new either.

  20. Mondo the Magnificent

    Seriously now...

    I know a guy who is squint, he wears glasses but it's a problem he was born with and has had for many years. Sadly his conditon cannot be corrected with surgery.

    So, I have to ask what will happen if he looks at the screen? Will the camer misinterpret the occular feedback and scroll up/down and sideways at the same time?

    Yes, I know, he would just disable the feature...

  21. Artifixprime

    Why the hate?

    They're trying to make the interface adapt to the human rather than the other way round. So what if it doesn't work too well, they're giving it a go and will get it right at some point if it proves popular / has benefits.

    Just disable for the moment it's not your thing. Simple?

    1. gujiguju

      Re: Why the hate?

      Not really "hate," just cynicism...and the reason is because Samsung leaked a possible new "feature" to the NY Times to create hype before the new model, instead of just doing a great announcement demo during the release event.

      (Also, cynicism pointed at news media, like NYT and others, that are happy to shovel rumors via anonymous sources for page views & ad hits, instead of real reportage.)

      For those engaged in the continuous Apple foodfight, my guess is every handset maker or mobile OS maker has this in their R&D labs, it's just about thinking whether it works well enough or will confuse their users (or just release it as a hyped check-box item).

  22. Maryland, USA

    Watch Apple sue Samsung for calling its new phone..

    the EyePhone.

  23. Ilsa Loving


    As the current owner of a Galaxy S3, I can say that maybe they should spend less time on new features, and more time on making the existing ones work.

    Kies is a massive steaming load of crap. MTP doesn't work. Even when I put the phone into PTP mode, Picasa is unable to pull pictures from it. Data transfer is so utterly useless that I've had to resort to installing an FTP server on my phone and using Filezilla to transfer files back and forth.

    It's a flagship alright. Of the mediocre navy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Odd.. I have no need to use kies on my pc, I use explorer, the file manager on linux or finder on mac to transfer stuff with ease .. Oh on mac you need extra software, but linux and windows need none...

      I suspect your S3 is faulty....

      But in reality I just use a file manager and transfer files to my NAS when I want them on another machine...

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Without having used the feature, I'd say I quickly wouldn't dare to read near the top or bottom of the screen anymore, as the friggin device would autoscroll and throw off my orientation completely...

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