Today, eBay made an announcement most probably wouldn’t expect: it’s been working behind the scenes on AI-powered assistive technology. In a broad sense, the open-source HeadGaze project, as it’s called, uses the front-facing camera on the iPhone X and 3D information from Apple ARKit to allow users to navigate apps by moving their head. eBay has also created an app called HeadSwipe using HeadGaze technology.
It probably won’t come as a shock to learn that HeadSwipe is centered on hands-free eBay shopping. Browsing online stores can be a difficult task for someone with motor impairments, but HeadSwipe looks to solve that. It uses head tracking to emulate a cursor on your phone’s display, allowing you to navigate apps and click on buttons without ever needing to tap anything.
By tilting your head toward large on-screen buttons, you can swipe through categories and item listings. The widget-based interface can tell when the cursor has stayed in one place for a certain period of time, allowing users to “tap” buttons on screen as well. It isn’t hard to imagine HeadSwipe being an exciting launch for people who have trouble navigating apps through swiping and tapping, especially since it’s paired with a service as popular as eBay.
HeadGaze, the technology at the center of HeadSwipe, was created by eBay intern Muratcan Cicek, who writes in a blog post that he has motor impairments of his own. Cicek and eBay have decided to publish HeadGaze’s code on GitHub, and say that the technology’s modular code design should make it easy for app developers to implement head tracking and controls in their own apps.
For now, it seems that HeadGaze only works with the iPhone X, but that could very well change tomorrow, as Apple is poised to launch as many as three new iPhones that will have similar capabilities. Cicek also writes that eBay is now looking into creating eye tracking technology that could take this kind of interface once step further. We’ll be keeping an eye on what eBay does from here, so stay tuned.