Over the course of 2020 we’ve quietly been working with a small group of committed EyeMine users to prepare a new and updated version of EyeMine, using their feedback and suggestions to make EyeMine easier to use and even more powerful.
In this post we’ll dive into a few of the improvements and new features which have increased the accessibility and ease of the eye-controlled Minecraft experience.
A video overview of some of the new features in EyeMineV2. Transcript can be found at the end of this post.
We typically find our EyeMine users fall into one of two main categories – expert users who know more about Minecraft than we do, or complete beginners who might not have played anything like it before, and don’t have the technical support to be comfortable with the wider Minecraft landscape. With EyeMineV2 we’ve worked hard to improve the experience for both sets of users.
Key improvements for advanced players
Expert users tend to use the Intermediate or Advanced keyboard, and want the full building or survival experience. They might use other Minecraft mods alongside EyeMine or play on servers with friends. They know Minecraft better than we do, and we always appreciate it when they let us know when we’ve inadvertently overlooked certain functionality.
Thanks to feedback to these testers, we’ve added a wide range of “quality of life” improvements and new features, including:
- Better weapon handling – improvements for Survival mode as well as improvements specific to bows and arrows
- More flexibility flying up and down while building
- Better control while climbing ladders
- An ironsights mode for precise building
- Support for saved hotbars
… and much more
Based on feedback from this group we also made significant improvements to building, making it a lot faster and easier to tackle large building projects. The most significant improvement here was to add a new feature allowing blocks to be placed by dwelling in the Minecraft world. What this means is that a user can look directly at a block in the Minecraft world, and see a shrinking square appear. If they are still looking at the same block location when the shrinking completes, a new block will be placed here. If they’d like to choose another location, they can move their eyes to look at a different block before the dwell animation completes. This is the same method someone would use to select a key from the EyeMine keyboard, but rather than selecting 2D keys, they are choosing surfaces within the 3D Minecraft world.
Dwell control lets a user place (or remove) lots of blocks quickly with free eye control of the crosshair. As well as speeding things up, it also prevents mistakes where users would steer the crosshair to their chosen location and then have to look down at the EyeMine keyboard, accidentally nudging the camera on the way. See below for a comparison of the old method of building with the new method. One of our users, Becky, sent us a video of a pet emporium she built in about 3 hours the first time she tried out this new dwell method – she said this would previously have taken her 2 days to build. Great work, Becky!
The following video shows dwell building in action, compared to the original method of placing blocks one at a time. In practice, both methods are useful in different situations, and users learn their own preferred workflows for combining the various different control strategies.
Key improvements for beginners
SpecialEffect works extensively with everyday families who might not feel comfortable debugging complicated technical setups. Since the very first conception of EyeMine, we’ve wanted it to extend beyond individual bespoke setups and be usable by anyone across the world without extensive support. While building the new version of EyeMine we were able to tackle some common technical issues or confusions, and streamline the onboarding process for non-expert Minecraft players.
This included streamlining the installation process into fewer pieces where possible, as well as automating some of the initial setup for different eye trackers, and making it harder to inadvertently launch an incorrect version of Minecraft from the Minecraft Launcher. We’ve also added keyboards that allow an eye gaze user to perform their own initial tweaks to the most important game settings – mouse sensitivity for looking and speed for automatic walking. Previously these were changed in menus or using a physical keyboard – which worked well when an assistant was helping with the initial setup, but was harder for independent users.
We also tackled some common errors in playing the game. For example, beginners typically play EyeMine in a Creative Minecraft world, where they don’t have to worry about monsters or hunger. However, when you create a new world, Minecraft defaults you to Survival mode – which can take new users by surprise! With EyeMineV2 we’ve hijacked the Minecraft menus to first encourage our “recommended settings” for beginners, with the full Minecraft options only one click away for expert users. This is an example of one of the many times where we try hard to optimise for onboarding new users with as little impact as possible on advanced users – this has been a constant consideration throughout EyeMine’s development.
One common request from users was the ability to resize and reposition the EyeMine keyboard. Although this was technically possible, it wasn’t exposed to users in a simple way. With EyeMineV2, the keyboard can be simply resized with the mouse cursor, with more options available in the settings. You can even make the keyboard interface transparently sit over the game if you prefer!
Another request that often arose was bespoke requests for changes to the EyeMine keyboards. We now officially support customisation of keyboards by allowing our more tech-savvy users to make a copy of the built-in keyboards and change the XML files themselves.
We are very grateful to everyone who has offered feedback or tested beta versions of EyeMineV2, with particular thanks to Becky, Kareem and Sebastian. We are always delighted to hear from users whether they want to show us what they’ve been up to in the game, or offer feedback and suggestions for how we can improve EyeMine.
To find out more about EyeMine or to tell us about your experiences, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
EyeMineV2 Introduction Video Information:
Video by Cara Jessop
Music: Pixelate by Zac Nelson (artlist.io)
Hi everyone. In this video I’m going to give you a quick run through of EyeMineV2. EyeMine is an eye-controlled interface that allows gamers to play Minecraft without needing to use a keyboard or mouse. For the new version of EyeMine we’ve taken feedback from our users to streamline and optimise their Minecraft experience, adding new features and making improvements to the controls. EyeMine provides an on-screen, gaze-controlled keyboard that sits alongside Minecraft Java edition, giving access to the game. Eyemine is designed to be played using only an eye tracker or a head mouse but if you prefer you may also use a switch for key selection in EyeMine or as a direct control for mining and building. As with the original version of EyeMine we support users with a wide range of abilities whether you need larger targets or prefer to have everything available in a single advanced keyboard. The new version of EyeMine has native support for even more eye trackers as well as any input method that can control the mouse cursor. We’ve also added a selection of bonus keyboards. In the Settings keyboard an eye gaze user can now adjust the speed they look around the world or change their walking speed. The Mouse and Menus keyboard supports menu navigation within Minecraft and also features function keys for advanced Minecraft inventory management. Saved Toolbars allow you to store and restore your favourite building items which are visible in the Toolbars tab of the Inventory. To save your current toolbar, close the Inventory, select Save followed by the number of the slot you want to save it to. To load another toolbar, select Load, followed by its number. The Builder’s keyboard is optimised for players who are building in Creative Mode, with extra Flying options, an Ironsights Mode for precision tasks and various options for Dwelling. Using the new Dwell to Build functionality is also supported in the intermediate and advanced keyboards. Simply turn on Dwell Building and look at the place where you want to place a block. Dwelling directly in the Minecraft world can significantly speed up your building process while avoiding mistakes caused by aiming errors. As always there are plenty of options for customising your Minecraft experience, whether you’re a complete beginner or an expert user. Within the Minecraft Mod Config you can adjust many of the assistive features according to your preference. The EyeMine keyboard itself is adjustable and in the Settings you can change your eye tracker set-up, including Dwell or Switch Control, as well as many other options to customise EyeMine’s gaze-controlled keyboard. To find out more and to download and install the latest version of EyeMine please visit www.specialeffect.org.uk/Eyemine