At first glance the Dell Latitude 6530 doesn’t look like anything special, until you notice the black module marked “Tobii” placed just beneath the screen and connected via USB input.Tobii, based in Sweden, is a company specializing in eye tracking and gaze interaction technology. Their module is the principal element of a demonstration at IDF called "Tobii Eyetracker by Dell OEM,” that enables users to accomplish a specific set of tasks-- including navigating, scrolling, zooming and selecting items on a laptop screen-- without keystrokes, mouse clicks or touchpad intervention. The goal is for the person interacting with the demo to see a few of the potential applications for operating computer systems with one’s eyes, or, more specifically, by allowing the system to track your eye movements.
Before you can get started you need to do a one-time calibration process, which involves following a circle moving around the screen.It takes about one a minute or so -- the user stands about an arm’s length from the PC or tablet and an icon indicates when the system has located one and then both eyes (more on how this is done shortly).
You then simply look at what you want to launch with your eyes and that initiates the equivalent of a mouse or keypad click.
While the Dell Latitude 6530 was running an Intel® Core™ i5-3230M Processor (@2.6GHz), the computing power of iCore is not needed to run the eye tracking app. A Dell Lati10 tablet also was available to be connected to the Tobii module; this is a 10” tablet powered by the Intel® Atom™ processor Z2760 (with processor frequency of up to 1.8GHz with Intel® Burst Technology). The computing devices can be running either Microsoft Windows 7 or Windows 8.
While the demo offered several games that can be played using the system, such as blowing up Asteroids by simply looking at your target, there are more serious applications intended for Tobii’s eyetracker:
- It is intended as an assistive communication device for those with disabilities. Someone without the ability to speak, for example, could communicate by looking at sounds or words on a screen. It is also envisioned as part of a healthcare product that bolts to a wheelchair, enabling users such as a quadriplegic to both operate their computer and physically move about. Eye-tracking control also can reduce the strain on users with carpal tunnel syndrome.
- In education, children with dyslexia have non-traditional screen viewing techniques. By tracking their eye movements and giving the data to their reading teachers instead of jumping around on the page trying to gather information they can be taught a better pattern to use The system can determine retail shopping habits—where the consumer is looking when he or she approaches a retail display.
- Eyetracking data can be used to review what a vehicle operator was looking at prior to an accident, or prevent an accident by sounding an alarm if the driver takes his eyes off of the road.
- It can improve website usability; the eye tracker captures where on a screen your eyes look.
- It can facilitate other computing tasks include reading e-mail aloud or using a calculator.
How it works
It turns out that the light sensitive surface of our eye—the retina--is not equally sensitive everywhere. Of its three main regions-- foveal, parafoveal and peripheral-- we see details most clearly in the area called the fovea. Researchers tell us the information registered through the foveal region constitutes 50% of what is sent to the brain through our optic nerve. To maximize our visual processing resources, when we move our eyes to focus on a particular visual area of interest, we are subconsciously placing the foveal region of the eye on the area currently within main focus. To do this we use what is called a fixation, or a pause of the eye movement on a specific area of the visual field. By letting the foveal region register the image, the brain get the highest resolution possible for the image as well as the most amount of data registered by the eye about that area. Research also has shown that the retina needs about 80 msec to see a new image before that image is registered in normal light conditions.
These movements are the enablers of eye tracking technology.According to Tobii, the most common non-invasive eye tracking technique is Pupil Center Corneal Reflection (PCCR). The basic concept is to use infrared light to illuminate the eye causing highly visible reflections, and a camera to
capture an image of the eye showing these reflections. It is then possible to calculate a vector formed by the angle between the cornea and pupil reflections– the direction of this vector, combined with other geometrical features of the reflections, is used to calculate the gaze direction. Using two cameras provides a robust calculation of the position of the eye in space and the point of gaze, even if the position of the head changes.
I found that the eye-tracker technology works very well and each movement that was attempted during the demo was accurately performed. If you’re at IDF the Dell OEM eye tracker demo can be found in the Intelligent Systems Zone on Level 2.
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