SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker review: Here’s looking at you

Price when reviewed

As with any pastime, hobby or sport in the 21st century, there’s probably an app or gadget out there to help with whatever it is you’re doing. There are sensors for golfers to track swing speed and line; tennis players can analyse swing speed, force and direction; and the Adidas miCoach Smart Ball lets footballers dissect their free kicks and penalties. But what of the ever-growing suite of professional gamers and eSports enthusiasts? Where’s their granular activity tracker?

For the professional video-game player and those who aspire to be one, SteelSeries has come to fill this niche with the Sentry Eye Tracker, a gadget that lets any user track that most critical of all gaming performance metrics: what your eyes are looking at.

SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker review: design

The Sentry isn’t a particularly eye-catching gadget. It’s a 320mm-long black bar with three red glowing-eye sensors, and there isn’t much else to it. For a device that’s supposed to remain attached to your monitor permanently, though, that’s a good thing. It’s unobtrusive, and after it’s been hooked up for a while it’s easy to forget it’s there, especially on a desktop PC.

The Sentry is designed for monitors up to 27in in size, and mounting it is simple enough. First you attach an adhesive magnetic strip to the centre of the bezel below your screen, then pop the Sentry onto it. The magnet holds the device securely in place, and since the Sentry comes with a spare adhesive strip, you can switch it from a PC to a laptop with ease.

It all works pretty well, although I do have one reservation about this method of attachment. SteelSeries envisions Sentry as a product for passionate video-game players using high-end rigs or gaming laptops; anyone who’s spent more than £1,000 on a laptop such as the Dell Alienware 17 R2 or a desktop with high-end monitor is likely to think twice about defacing it with a nasty strip of sticky black plastic.

SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker review: eye tracking

In order to provide accurate feedback on where your eyes look while playing games, it’s essential that the Sentry is can track your eyes successfully. Thankfully this is one task the Sentry absolutely excels at.

Using three sensors – two housed at either end of the glossy front face, and one in the centre – it’s capable of tracking both your eyes 50 times a second. It can even scan them through glasses or contact lenses, and you can choose to have it follow only one of your eyes, presumably in case you have a lazy or glass eye.

Sentry comes bundled with Tobii’s EyeX software, which allows you to play around with controlling Windows with your eyes and the right Ctrl button. It works surprisingly well, picking out what you’re looking at with alarming accuracy. I wouldn’t say it’s a viable alternative to using a keyboard and mouse, but it does highlight the potential of eye-tracking navigation systems for the disabled or as a means of quickly moving between apps and windows.

SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker review: software

What sets Sentry apart from the Tobii EyeX Dev Kit on which it’s based – and which is €100 cheaper – is its analytical and streaming software.

Using Sentry Game Analyzer you can analyse where your eyes have been looking during a game session. You can then supposedly use that information to improve your clearly latent abilities and become a pro gamer. Unfortunately, that’s not quite how things work out.

I tested Game Analyzer using Dota 2 (one of only two games that work with the software, the other being StarCraft II) and a random selection of perplexed gamers at London Game Space at Scenario Bar in Dalston, London, the results were at once overwhelming and disappointing.

Game Analyzer provides you with incredibly granular data about where you looked during a session. Available during post-match replays, the software tells you how often and for how long you looked at your mini-map, allies, enemies, dropped items and the general world around you. It can even tell you how long you spent gazing longingly at items in the shop and then looking in despair at your meagre gold balance. You can also pull up your statistics, giving you a second-by-second look at what your eyes were up to during a battle.

To help you manage the sheer amount of information Game Analyzer throws your way, SteelSeries has colour-coded a scale for “awareness” of each screen zone. It also allows you to view components on the basis of how often you looked, or how long you looked for. It’s hard to say precisely how accurate it is, but from my time playing it didn’t appear to get anything horribly wrong.

The trouble is, no matter how exciting this all seems, having this information seems rather useless. It’s unclear how it could help you improve reaction times in games, and it certainly won’t make you more adept at understanding a game’s core systems. It seems impossible, or at least incredibly difficult, to export data and view it on another machine or in a spreadsheet, and if you quit a match early you’ll lose all “gaze information”.

Many of the players at London Game Space found it tricky to understand what the information meant, and while they were of varying skill levels, all of them had a deep interest in games. It seems that if SteelSeries can’t sell its analytical device to the very people who should be interested in it, then questions about its usefulness have to be raised.

Thankfully, the other piece of bundled software, SteelSeries’ Sentry Streaming Overlay, is much better, providing a practical application for the device.

For those who stream gameplay footage or record YouTube tutorials regularly, Sentry Streaming Overlay will be a great feature, setting your clips apart from those on other channels. Working with any game in your library, and pairing up with Open Broadcaster Software and XSplit Broadcaster, Streaming Overlay layers eye-tracking information over the top of what you’re playing.

This means viewers can see exactly how you play, and understand how you spotted an enemy up ahead or an approaching flanking situation.

SteelSeries Sentry Eye Tracker review: verdict

It’s telling that all the endorsements on the Sentry’s website come from SteelSeries-sponsored eSports players. Everyone who went eyes-on with the Eye Tracker during our review found its proposition incredibly confusing.

The SteelSeries Sentry’s eye-tracking ability is fantastic, but the novelty of navigating around Windows isn’t enough to warrant the €200 (£144) purchase. Combine this with the mysterious lack of support for the largest eSports game in the world, League of Legends, and the rather thin catalogue of just two titles, and there seems to be little reason to rush out and buy one.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos