The Eye Drop system tracks your gaze focus in the natural field of vision so as to enable content selection, transfer and interaction between you and several devices.
After the apparently imminent disappearance of the physical keyboard, might the computer mouse be about to follow the path to oblivion? The trend seems to be that as technologies develop, interactive systems are moving towards a more instinctive relationship between user and device, as seen with the development of touchscreens. Now a new technique has appeared that enables you to select and interact with on-screen content with little more than natural eye movements. The Eye Drop system developed by a team of researchers at Lancaster University in the UK allows you to select text or other items displayed on an interactive screen by focusing your gaze on it and then transfer it to another connected device with the aid of manual positioning.
Drag and drop using gaze
Although smart glasses such as Google Glass are still struggling to achieve any real integration into people’s everyday lifestyles, the field of vision-aids, along the lines of the work being done on augmented reality, now appears to be a focal point at many research laboratories. In appearance, the prototype version of the Eye Drop system consists of a fairly large headset containing several cameras, some of which track the wearer’s eye movement and others observe the ambient environment. The system enables the user to focus on particular information displayed on a public or shared screen – for instance in a building foyer or a meeting – and use the cameras to transfer it to another device close by that is connected wirelessly. Eye Drop will not however transfer all the things your eyes come to rest upon; you need to confirm your selection either by clicking and holding a computer mouse or clenching the item with manual touch hold before completing the ‘drag and drop’ procedure by shifting your gaze to the recipient device, positioning and releasing. In one of the examples cited by the Lancaster University team, the user looks at an icon on an interactive screen, selects it manually and then drags it over to a tablet, completing the drop action with light finger pressure.
Wider uses of eye-tracking
The Eye Drop system enables a user to interact meaningfully with several connected devices, just by focusing his/her gaze. A headset is currently still needed for this but the feasibility study carried out by the UK researchers indicates that in the longer term eye movement recognition systems could be directly integrated into personal mobile devices, since the majority of tablets, smartphones and computers already incorporate a fixed camera trained on the user. Moreover, aside from offering a more sophisticated sensory experience to the general user, this technology appears to have some potentially useful applications in the shorter term in the healthcare field. While much current research focuses on developing ways to help paralysed patients communicate their intentions based on neural signals, an eye-tracking system could well provide a feasible mode of communication for people suffering from serious functional impairment.