Ultra Cheap 3D Eye Tracking for Quadriplegics

Researchers develop low-cost device to control computer with your eyes (w/ Video)

A version of Pong is played on the original Magnovox Odyssey 200 in 2009. Engineers said Friday they had built a device using mass-produced video gaming equipment that lets disabled people control a computer with just their eyes — with a price tag of under $30 (25 euros). To demonstrate their gadget’s functionality, the team got subjects to play the video game Pong.

Millions of people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries or amputees could soon interact with their computers and surroundings using just their eyes, thanks to a new device that costs less than £40.

A version of Pong is played on the original Magnovox Odyssey 200 in 2009. Engineers said Friday they had built a device using mass-produced video gaming equipment that lets disabled people control a computer with just their eyes — with a price tag of under $30 (25 euros). To demonstrate their gadget’s functionality, the team got subjects to play the video game Pong.

Millions of people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries or amputees could soon interact with their computers and surroundings using just their eyes, thanks to a new device that costs less than £40.

The GT3D device is made up of two fast video game console cameras, costing less than £20 each, that are attached, outside of the line of vision, to a pair of glasses that cost just £3. 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 impressively, the researchers are 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. To demonstrate the effectiveness of the eye-tracker, the researchers got subjects to play the video game Pong. In this game, the subject used his or her eyes to move a bat to hit a ball that was bouncing around the screen – a feat that is difficult to accomplish with other read-out mechanisms such as brain waves (EEG). Dr Aldo Faisal, Lecturer in Neurotechnology at Imperial’s Department of Bioengineering and the Department of Computing, is confident in the ability to utilise eye movements given that six of the subjects, who had never used their eyes as a control input before, could still register a respectable score within 20 per cent of the able bodied users after just 10 minutes of using the device for the first time. 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 GT3D 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. This problem has previously been resolved by staring at an icon for a prolonged period or blinking; however, the latter is part of our natural behaviour and happens unintentionally. Instead, the researchers calibrated the system so that a simple wink would represent a mouse click, which only occurs voluntarily unlike the blink. Dr Faisal said: “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. “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.”

Severely disabled people have few options when choosing practical machine interfaces and eyes are often the only reliably controlled body parts that can be interfaced with. Sufficient tracking of eyes enough to be able to reliably control external devices is not easy and has not been cheap, but researchers at Imperial College London are changing that by employing off-the-shelf components.

Using parts costing around $30, the team was able to build a device able to do gaze position tracking in 2D and 3D at a sample rate over 120 Hz with a 0.5–1 degree of visual angle resolution. The engineers showed off the capability of the controller by having users play the classic Pong video game using only their eyes.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-07-low-cost-device-eyes-video.html#jCp

Eye movements are highly correlated with motor intentions and are often retained by patients with serious motor deficiencies. Despite this, eye tracking is not widely used as control interface for movement in impaired patients due to poor signal interpretation and lack of control flexibility. We propose that tracking the gaze position in 3D rather than 2D provides a considerably richer signal for human machine interfaces by allowing direct interaction with the environment rather than via computer displays. We demonstrate here that by using mass-produced video-game hardware, it is possible to produce an ultra-low-cost binocular eye-tracker with comparable performance to commercial systems, yet 800 times cheaper. Our head-mounted system has 30 USD material costs and operates at over 120 Hz sampling rate with a 0.5–1 degree of visual angle resolution. We perform 2D and 3D gaze estimation, controlling a real-time volumetric cursor essential for driving complex user interfaces. Our approach yields an information throughput of 43 bits s-1, more than ten times that of invasive and semi-invasive brain–machine interfaces (BMIs) that are vastly more expensive. Unlike many BMIs our system yields effective real-time closed loop control of devices (10 ms latency), after just ten minutes of training, which we demonstrate through a novel BMI benchmark—the control of the video arcade game ‘Pong’.

Source : http://phys.org/news/2012-07-low-cost-device-eyes-video.html

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