Controlling Your Computer With Your Eyes

For the millions who suffer from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries or amputees there may soon be a way to interact with computers using just their eyes.
According to recently released information from ScienceDaily, the device will not only be affordable, but is made from easily acquired materials. The device tracks eye movements to monitor exactly where a person is looking, allowing them an on-screen cursor, just like one would using a mouse.

The technology was just presented on July 13th in the Journal of Neural Engineering, and researchers from Imperial College London held a demonstration with users playing the classic computer game Pong without any tactile controllers. Video of this demonstration can be found here:
The learning curve was almost non-existent, as six of the subjects, who had never used their eyes as a control input before, were still able to score within 20% of the able bodied users after the first 10 minutes with the device. Users also demonstrated browsing the web and composing emails hands-free.

The device is made up of two fast video game console cameras, costing less than $32 each, that are attached, outside of the line of vision, to a pair of glasses that cost just around $5. The cameras constantly take pictures of the eye, working out where the pupil is pointing, and from this the researchers can use a set of calibrations to work out exactly where a person is looking on the screen.

Even more impressive, the researchers were also able to use more detailed calibrations to work out the 3D gaze of the subjects — in other words, how far into the distance they were looking. It is believed that this could allow people to control an electronic wheelchair simply by looking where they want to go or control a robotic prosthetic arm.

The commercially viable device uses just one watt of power and can transmit data wirelessly over Wi-Fi or via USB into any Windows or Linux computer.
The system has also solved the ‘Midas touch problem’, allowing users to click on an item on the screen using their eyes, instead of a mouse button. Previously, this issue was resolved by staring at an icon for a prolonged period or blinking. The issue with this solution is that blinking happens naturally, and unintentionally, so the researchers calibrated the system to respond so that a wink would represent a mouse click. Since winking occurs voluntarily, it’s a much more effective solution.

Not only is the device a 3D eye-tracking system, but it is hundreds of times cheaper than commercial devices, and allows real-time interactions with users that are faster and smoother than what is currently available. No word on a release date yet, but soon affordable devices can help people worldwide independent of their healthcare circumstances.

Posted in Gadgets, Tech News

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