Every day we read news stories about researchers developing eye tracking technology with these grand ambitions to have cheap eye trackers. Though this concept is nice, especially for the assistive technology market where many end-users are heavily reliant on Medicare or Medicaid support, how realistic is this big dream?
Prototype systems bragging costs lower than $3,000 dollars are becoming more and more abundant, but people in the more expensive eye tracker business have to wonder what is traded to make the lower cost even possible. You’ll read stories of heroics, of a very small team that was able to create a phenomenal product with one tenth of the manpower bigger companies employ (costs of hiring and paying are assumed to stretch into end-sales prices) or monopolized companies boosting price thanks to low competition, but what it really comes down to is the quality of materials used to make the systems.
Many high-priced companies have technologies built into their machines that cost more than the low-cost systems do fully assembled. Single components can be so complex and high-tech that they alone carry more than the price of these other systems. Many of these components may also be specially built or designed for the product itself.
Additionally, many of these systems have complex software that does much more than simply track the eyes. Systems with bigger software bundles and more features realistically will cost more to assemble than systems with a single purpose.
That said, many of the cheap systems can’t compete with the quality more expensive systems can boast. The technology simply can’t compete, which makes it hard to justify for research fields that need absolute precision. However, for markets such as assistive tech where accuracy is not as vital, these systems could provide a cost-efficient alternative.