There are approximately 2.5 million people living with Multiple Sclerosis in the world today. Between 273,000 and 332,000 people have spinal cord injuries in the U.S. today.
Most people with spinal cord injuries or multiple sclerosis can move their eyes because of the eyes' direct connection to the brain. Although there already is existing technology that allows people to stare at a computer screen and direct a wheelchair in a certain direction there are problems with the current available system. A delay in the movement of the eye and the reaction in the wheelchair is the major concern. Scientists in London are in the process of developing a system that is operated merely by directing the eye in the area the user wants to go.
A system where people can just look in the direction in which they wish to go would be a dream come true. That is exactly what a team of researchers at Imperial College in London are in the process of developing. Led by Aldo Falsial, the Imperial's Brain and Behaviour Lab has developed software that involves both cameras and an algorithm program that analyzes in 10 milliseconds and translates this information into instructions. This is almost instantaneous and alleviates the chance of pauses and therefore the possibility of accidents.
Current software has the user looking at a screen which is open and they see the location in which they want to go but this can distract the eye and cause the possibility of not seeing obstacles that may be in the way. The new technology involves two cameras that are positioned toward the user's eyes and actually tracks the pupil and determines whether the eye is just observing or is actually looking in the direction they want to go. Along with a calibration process they relate that to where the person is looking in the given area around them and can determine where the operator wants to steer themselves.
Though this technology is designed for wheelchair users it could later be used to operate a robot, steer a car or even an airplane. In tests of the system it was found that testers were able to navigate through busy buildings faster and with fewer mishaps than when the eye tracking computer screen was used. Experimentation with the target audience is just starting and they hope to have a commercially ready product available within the next three years.
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