Individuals living with severe motor disabilities like ALS or CP can also enjoy computer games thanks to new 3D gaze technology. One project in particular, Communication by Gaze Interaction (COGAIN) is improving access to leisure through its eye tracking system.
The project lead by Stephen Vickers of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK builds on 2D gaze technology, which came about in the 1990s. It uses the eyes to guide computer cursors and staring at objects to click on them. While COGAIN’s controls still rely on this principle, it improves on speed and accuracy to tackle 3D environments. It also has extras to simplify the various functions found in modern computer applications. Read More...
COGAIN’s eye-gaze system bounces an infrared light from LEDs at the bottom of a computer monitor to track a person's eye movements. Using stereo infrared cameras, the system can calculate where on a screen the user is looking, with an accuracy of about 5 mm.
To switch between functions, users simply glance off-screen for a moment, in a particular direction. COGAIN also allows users to turn off the eye-gaze function, when they simply want to look around the screen.
According to Vickers, COGAIN can allow users to work almost as fast as someone using a traditional mouse and keyboard combination. This gives more freedom to those living with motor disabilities because they do not have to point out their disability to other gamers.
"Even though a user in, say, Second Life, might look as if they are able-bodied, if they can't operate and communicate as fast as everyone else, they could be perceived as having a disability," says Vickers, to The Future of Things.
Software trials are expected in the next year. There are currently a few leisure applications available for the system, which include an eye-drawing program, a puzzle game, an adventure game but also an accessible surfing extension for Firefox. The project received extensive funding last year from the European Union, reaching 2.9 million Euros.