A few eye movements in front of your mobile is enough to open doors and turn off lights.
Two BSc Eng students at DTU have developed a new technology—Enable—which via eye tracking in smartphones allows people with physical disabilities to turn on machines, turn up the heat, or switch off the lights in their home. Eye tracking can activate functions in apps developed for smart home technology.
“We have developed eye tracking for people with motor disabilities, because this group will benefit most—also financially—from using the technology. Where the homes of people with physical disabilities today are designed with individual solutions depending on whether they can use their arms or legs, eye tracking via the mobile will be a solution which can be used by virtually all, regardless of disability,” says Elias Lundgaard Pedersen, a BSc Eng student on the Design and Innovation programme.
Eye tracking is already used today on computers at hospitals for children with cerebral palsy, i.e. paralysis caused by brain damage, or for adults with the nervous system disease ALS and neurological disorders, where the patient cannot speak or use a keyboard and a mouse. Using eye tracking, they can write emails, go on the internet, and communicate with their surroundings with text that is read aloud with synthetic speech. The technology can also be used to control technology in their home, but this requires that additional equipment is connected their computer.
According to Elias Lundgaard Pedersen, the technology has not been introduced in mobiles until now because mobiles have so far not been used extensively as a link to other technologies. So linking eye tracking, apps on the mobile, and smart home technology opens up a whole new user interface.
“Instead of having a computer installed on the wheelchair, people with physical disabilities will have access to everything from their mobile. And the technology is inexpensive. Everyone can buy a mobile with this technology in a store—also in the USA, where it can be difficult for people with disabilities to get access to aids without a health insurance,” says Elias Lundgaard Pedersen.
A grant and two prizes
The technology behind eye tracking via the mobile is described in the bachelor project written by Elias Lundgaard Pedersen in 2017 in collaboration with fellow student Frederik Østergaard Neble, also a BSc Eng student on the Design and Innovation programme. The two students have subsequently received a grant from the Bevica Foundation and two prizes for their work.
Today, they are working as project employees in the company Social Digital in Copenhagen, they have access to a business developer, and are writing the codes required to move the eye tracking from a microprocessor to a mobile phone.
The technology has already been tested by users at Geelsgårdskolen—a school for disabled children and children with special needs—in the form of a microprocessor connected to a computer. In the coming months, the students must write a business plan, file a patent application for their invention, and find an investor.
Useful in other industries
To be able to develop the technology for other business areas, the students need funding that allows them to employ more experienced programmers and developers.
Elias Lundgaard Pedersen and Frederik Østergaard Neble see excellent opportunities to further develop Enable into solutions targeted at other sectors, for example the pharmaceutical industry, where eye tracking of equipment may be a solution in labs, where the staff may not touch any surfaces.
In the long term, widespread use of eye tracking is expected as a way of navigating on mobiles in the same way as consumers today scroll and swipe their way through programs.
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