VMware seeks patent for VD-eye-tracking tech

Virtzilla wants mobile devices to figure out when to put windows in your face on small screens

Delivering a virtual desktop to a mobile device is easy to do these days, but once it lands in a mobile device the experience can be horrid. Touch screens make poor substitutes for mice and the smaller screen of a fondleslab or smartphone makes user interfaces designed for monitors unpleasant.

Citrix's answer to this problem is a special mouse. And now it looks like VMware's remedy is eye-tracking software.

Virtzilla's filed a patent application, published last week, for “Eye tracking in remote desktop client”.

“A user may use a remote desktop client on a smart phone or tablet computer to connect to a remote desktop of a virtual machine (VM) on a remote server and run Windows applications,” the application reads. “However, Windows applications may not be designed to display properly on the small screen of the smart phone or tablet computer. To use the Windows applications, the user may have to frequently pinch in and out. For example, the user may zoom in to read a document and click the correct buttons on an application, and then the user may zoom out to see the entire application window or remote desktop.”

Which is a painful way to get things done.

VMware thinks it would be nicer if the cameras present in mobile devices were pressed into service so that “the user's pupils may be mapped to a location on the display screen so the client device may determine the portion of the screen that the user is looking at”. The VDI client then “detects one of the direction icons being selected based on the user's eye movements and, in response, sends a scrolling command to the remote desktop on the remote server”, which scrolls the screen in the direction of the user's gaze and magnifies the content, removing the need to mash the screen all the time.

The patent application was filed in 2013, before VMware acquired AirWatch, before Intel's RealSense depth-sensing cameras were mainstream, before tablet sales started to drop, before IBM and Apple teamed up to push fondleslab-native business applications and also before desktop-as-a-service emerged as a challenger to desktop virtualisation.

The eye-tracking idea is, however, just that: filing a patent application is not a sign that a company actually intends to – or is ready to - build something. Most VDI rigs of which The Reg's virtualisation desk is aware tend to be aimed at on-premises workers, with a new wave of mobile device management and application delivery tools re-rendering apps for consumption on mobile devices. ®

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