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Inspired by company hackathon, Microsoft to add eye-tracking support for Windows 10

What started as a request from Steve Gleason at Microsoft’s internal hackathon has turned into a new Windows 10 feature that will help people with disabilities operate a computer without a mouse or keyboard.

Microsoft employees around the world participated in the company’s fourth One Week hackathon last week. It’s an annual event that invites workers to step away from their day-to-day job and come up with creative new ideas that align with Microsoft’s mission “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

In the hackathon’s inaugural year, Gleason, a former NFL player who has ALS, challenged employees to come up with technology that could help people living with his disability. The grand prize winner from the 2014 hackathon ended up being “Ability EyeGaze,” a team that developed the EyeGaze Wheelchair, which allowed Steve to operate his wheelchair via eye movement and a Surface tablet.

As Microsoft explained in this blog post, engineers at the company took that idea and implemented it into a new eye-tracking feature called “Eye Control” for the Windows 10 operating system. It’s currently in beta and is available to Windows Insiders.

“Eye Control makes Windows 10 more accessible by empowering people with disabilities to operate an onscreen mouse, keyboard, and text-to-speech experience using only their eyes,” Microsoft noted. “The experience requires a compatible eye tracker, like the Tobii 4C, which unlocks access to the Windows operating system to be able to do the tasks one could previously accomplish with a physical mouse and keyboard.”

Microsoft, which spotlighted Gleason in its Super Bowl commercial three years ago, also last week held its 15th annual Imagine Cup, which brings together student developer teams from around the world to create original technology projects from start to finish.

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