Neurotechnologists at Imperial University in London have done just that by attaching two games console cameras costing less than £20 each to a pair of £3 glasses which are able to relay information to computer systems via WiFi or USB. They call their creation the GT3D.
The cameras work constantly to take pictures of the eye to calculate the angle and movement of the pupils and from that work out where exactly the wearer is looking. Clicking a mouse can be done in the blink of an eye – or rather, by a blink of an eye, and more detailed software is in place to determine how far into the distance the eyes are looking.
Potential uses of the device
Uses of a device able to control electronics without the use of limbs need little in the way of explanation. Whilst such things have existed before, their price tag has limited them to only a very slim portion of those whom they could benefit, and because the GT3D does not suffer from such constraints the developing team say it could revolutionize the lives of disabled people – imagine, for example, a version of the device able to control an electric wheelchair with the eyes.
In trials, the GT3D team demonstrated themselves playing a computerized game of Pong with their eyes, and they say that the interface is ready to perform much more complicated tasks such as controlling robotic arms. In fact, studies showed that six subjects who had never used eye control input before could still register a Pong score within 20% of those of able-bodied players after as little as 10 minutes spent using the device.
In today’s world, this is just the kind of innovation we need; the sort which doesn’t spend millions on research that pushes the price of the final product up, but rather develops smart software capable of exploiting existing technologies for new purposes.
The ability to steer mobility devices using only the eyes solves a lot of problems, but it also creates others. Any system such as this needs to be able to distinguish between looking in a direction deliberately to move and generally looking in that direction, which could not only prove dangerous but also appear to trade the ability to look at your surroundings for the ability to move – not necessarily a good thing.
One idea would be to only move following prolonged stares, but since most people’s attention is drawn towards accidents and hazards, that could prove more dangerous than beneficial.
The truth is that right now the answers aren’t all there, but with the manual work of producing such a device for an affordable price tag completed, we can begin to focus on issues in real world scenarios, and this is the next step.
Amy blogs about technology for leading glasses provider Direct Sight.