An introduction to EyeMine version 2 | Video

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

A screenshot demonstrating ironsights mode
In ironsights mode, the camera view zooms in and a lower mouse sensitivity lets you make small adjustments

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.

A screenshot showing dwell feedback - the shrinking red square highlights the edge where a block will be placed, if the dwell completes.
The shrinking red square highlights the edge where a block will be placed, if the dwell completes.

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.

A screenshot showing the new Settings keyboard for speed / sensitivity adjustments
The new Settings keyboard for speed / sensitivity adjustments

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.

Screenshot of new Minecraft menu allowing users to choose recommended EyeMine world options, or click through to the full default Minecraft options.
New Minecraft menu allowing users to choose recommended EyeMine world options, or click through to the full default Minecraft options.

Keyboard improvements

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. 

An example of an XML keyboard built for an expert user who wanted access to various Minecraft debug functionality

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 eyemine@specialeffect.org.uk.


EyeMineV2 Introduction Video Information:

Video by Cara Jessop

Music:  Pixelate by Zac Nelson (artlist.io)

Video Transcript:

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

Heal ’em All – an eye gaze platform game

An video introducing Heal ’em All Eye Gaze Edition.
Show Transcript

Heal ’em All – Eye Gaze Edition.

A spooky eye gaze platform game.

How to heal ’em instructions. 1. Explore the graveyard. 2. Find healing gun. 2. Shoot the zombies! 4. Find the exit.

[montage of game play with background music but no narration]

With customisable gaze controls…

[A view of the settings page options, and example clips of smaller and larger gaze controls]

And easier game options for beginners…

[A view of the game play settings page]

Brought to you by SpecialEffect.

Original game by Kris Urbas and Pawel Madeja.

Adapted for eye gaze by Kirsty McNaught.

Heal ’em All – Eye Gaze Edition

Here at SpecialEffect we’ve been on the lookout for web games that could be adapted to suit an eye gaze audience. We recently discovered a gem in amongst the winners of the 2013 Github Game Jam. Heal ’em All was a small platform game built by Kris Urbas and Paweł Madeja, who kindly agreed that we could take their code and modify it for our users.  We’ve added eye gaze controls, more levels and new options to adjust the game.

Heal ’em All is free to play online using any eye tracker that supports cursor control. It also supports touch if you want to play collaboratively. If you prefer traditional controls, you can use a keyboard.

A GIF showing someone reading the instructions for Heal 'em All
A GIF showing someone reading the instructions for Heal ’em All.

The game

Heal ’em all is an online platform game. You play a pioneering doctor who has discovered a cure for the zombie plague. You walk around an abandoned graveyard shooting your cure at any zombies you find!

You control the player by looking at arrows on the screen. The longer you look at a walking arrow, the faster you will walk in that direction. To jump or shoot your gun, you need to dwell or click on those buttons. These gaze controls are adjustable if you prefer them to be larger or smaller to suit your eye gaze abilities, or if you want to adjust the dwell settings. You can also change the game’s difficulty in the settings menu – which allows you to explore the game at a slower pace if you prefer.

In each level your goal is to find a gun, use it to heal as many zombies as you can, and then find the key and exit to complete the level. If you’re struggling with accurate eye gaze control, you can usually make up for it with slow cunning rather than quick reactions. There are five main levels of escalating difficulty, as well as bonus levels including extra easy levels, zombie-mad levels, and tricky puzzle levels.

If you’re confident with your eye gaze skills and just want the default gameplay, go straight to this link:

Heal ’em All game with default settings

If you’re feeling cautious, and want to try out a very forgiving version of the game, try this link to get started with relaxed settings:

Heal ’em All game with relaxed settings

A GIF showing Heal 'em All gameplay with eye gaze control.
A GIF showing some eye controlled gameplay.

Eye tracker support

The game runs in a web browser (tested primarily with Chrome), and uses the cursor as input. Any eye tracker that you can use to directly control the cursor will be compatible. For instance, if you are using a Tobii Gaming eye tracker, you would use the Gaze Point software from Tobii to turn on cursor control. If you don’t like seeing the cursor jump around while you’re controlling it with your eyes, you can hide it within the game, so that it doesn’t feel like you’re using direct pointer control.

The game should also be compatible with any other method for moving a cursor, for example using a head mouse.

Game options

As always, giving users options to play a game their preferred way can help to increase the reach of a game. In the Heal ’em All settings menu, you can change:

  • whether you want to play the game with eye gaze/touch or keyboard controls
  • whether to use in-built dwell or your own click method
  • how long a dwell time you want 
  • how large you want the in-game controls to be, and how visible/transparent
  • whether the cursor is hidden by the game
  • the difficulty of the game (including three suggested presets, or customised options)
  • whether the game instructions and results are narrated to you
  • sound and music options

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Kris and Paweł for creating the original game!

The game was adapted by Kirsty McNaught, who previously created the EyeMine eye gaze interface for SpecialEffect.

Thanks to Becky and Kareem, who tested earlier versions of the game with eye gaze and provided feedback.