Video Game Technology Lets Disabled People Use Computers With Their Eyes

By Chelsea Whyte on July 15, 2012 11:54 PM EDT

A new device composed of off-the-shelf materials could soon allow the millions of people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's or spinal cord injuries to control a computer using just the motion of their eyes. And it costs less than $60 to make.

An eye-tracking device added to 'smart' software was presented in the Journal of Neural Engineering by researchers from Imperial College London. They demonstrated the device by having a group of people play a hands-free version of the classic computer game Pong. The users were also able to browse the web and write emails, clicking the mouse with a wink of the eye.

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The researchers attached a pair of glasses to video game console cameras which constantly take pictures of the eye to determine where the pupil is pointing. The system can then work out where someone is looking on a computer screen.

"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 study co-author Aldo Faisal, according to The Verge.

The team was also able to use more detailed calibrations to work out the 3-dimensional gaze of subjects, meaning the computer can understand how far into the distance they are looking. They believe this could allow people to control an electronic wheelchair or a robotic prosthetic arm just by looking in the direction they'd like to steer or grab hold of something.

"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," Faisal said, according to My Fox DC.

Eye-tracking technology isn't new, but an affordable version like this one could make the system available to many people who really need it. 

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