A participant plays Pong using only his eyes. (Photo : Institute of Physics)
A new ultra low-cost device could help people suffering from motor disabilities to control a computer. Using common parts, the device allows wearers to control a digital device using only eye movements, and would cost less than $65.
A number of debilitating conditions such as Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal-cord injuries leave millions without the many basic motor disabilities.
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"Crucially, we have achieved two things: we have built a 3D eye tracking system hundreds of times cheaper than commercial systems and used it to build a real-time brain machine interface that allows patients to interact more smoothly and more quickly than existing invasive technologies that are tens of thousands of times more expensive," said co-author of the paper Dr. Aldo Faisal, a lecturer in Neurotechnology at Imperial College In London's Department of Bioengineering and the Department of Computing
The team of researchers from Imperial College in London recognized that "eye movements are highly correlated with motor intentions and are often retained by patients with serious motor deficiencies" and hoped to figure out a way to help those people out.
What they came up with was this: Two fast video game cameras and one pair of cheap glasses to mount them on.
The cameras capture the wearer's eye movements and use the eye-tracking software to translate it into a digital signal. The researchers demonstrated it by showing someone playing Pong using the head-mounted device.
The researchers were even able to program minute, detailed calibrations into the device. For instance, it was even able to detect the depth of a person's gaze. This could mean that someone could control tell their electronic wheel chair how far they wanted to go simply by looking at the spot ahead of them.
"This is frugal innovation; developing smarter software and piggy-backing existing hardware to create devices that can help people worldwide independent of their healthcare circumstances," said Dr. Faisal.