Glasses Let Paralyzed Patients Send Emails By Blinking

Eyewear equipped with cameras translate eye movements into computer input, replacing the need for a mouse or keyboard.

Computers make life easier, quicker, and control the world around us. Unless, that is, you happen to be one of the millions of people who can’t use them.

Now, researchers at the Imperial College in London have built a special pair of glasses that will let people with limited mobility—such as those suffering from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Parkinson’s, or muscular dystrophy—interact with a computer using only their eyes.

The device, named the GT3D, is nothing fancy. Just a pair of cheap glasses with two cameras hooked on to the sides which track the wearer’s eye movements. The changing positions of their pupils are recorded and translated into a computer input—just how a mouse or trackball would.

In this video a researcher demonstrates the effectiveness of the technology by playing Pong using the GT3D glasses:

Not only that, but the GT3D can measure the depth of where a wearer is looking. With this third axis of control the potential applications for the device could one day mean controlling or driving a wheelchair, just by focusing on a spot in the distance where the wearer wants to go. Another capability is that the wearer could move prosthetic arms and even make them gesture just by the movement of their eyes.

There have been other examples of researchers trying to create cheap eye-tracking technology. Mick Ebeling of the NotImpossible Group helped the graffiti writer Tempt start drawing again when he connected a low-cost EyeWriter solution to a projector.

Will blinking soon replace the need for mouses? Continue reading how DIY devices like the GT3D, the EyeWriter, and other ‘frugal innovations’ are transforming how we interact with computers here.   

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