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Eye-operated video game developed for the disabled

March 30, 2010
Courtesy Imperial College London
and World Science staff

Col­lege stu­dents have de­vel­oped a com­put­er game that is op­er­ated by eye move­ments, which could al­low peo­ple with se­vere phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties to be­come “gamers” for the first time, sci­en­tists have an­nounced.

The stu­dents, from Im­pe­ri­al Col­lege Lon­don, have adapted a game called “Pong,” where a play­er moves a bat to hit a ball as it bounces around the screen. The us­er wears spe­cial glass­es con­tain­ing an in­fra­red light and a web­cam that records the move­ment of one eye. The web­cam is linked to a lap­top where a com­put­er pro­gram syncs the play­er's eye move­ments to the game.

A demonstration video is available here on YouTube. 

The pro­to­type game is very sim­ple but the stu­dents say the tech­nol­o­gy could be adapted to cre­ate more soph­is­t­icated games and ap­plica­t­ions such as wheel­chairs and com­put­er cur­sors con­trolled by eye move­ments. A ma­jor ad­van­tage of the tech­nol­o­gy is that it is in­ex­pen­sive, the de­vel­op­ers said; it uses off-the-shelf hard­ware and costs about $37 to make.

Eye move­ment sys­tems that sci­en­tists cur­rently use to study the brain and eye mo­tion cost around $40,000, say the re­search­ers.

“Re­mark­ably, our un­der­grad­u­ates have cre­ated this piece of neuro­tech­nol­o­gy us­ing bits of kit that you can buy in a shop,” said com­put­er scient­ist and bi­o­en­gi­neer Al­do Fai­sal, the team's su­per­vi­sor at the col­lege.

“The game that they've de­vel­oped is quite sim­ple, but we think it has enor­mous po­ten­tial, par­tic­u­larly be­cause it does­n't need lots of ex­pen­sive equip­ment. We hope to even­tu­ally make the tech­nol­o­gy avail­a­ble on­line so an­y­one can have a go at cre­at­ing new ap­plica­t­ions and games with it and we're op­ti­mis­tic about where this might lead. We hope it could ul­ti­mately pro­vide en­ter­tain­ment op­tions for peo­ple who have very lit­tle move­ment. In the fu­ture, peo­ple might be able to blink to turn pages in an elec­tron­ic book, or switch on their fa­vour­ite song, with the roll of an eye.”

“This game is just an early pro­to­type, but we're really ex­cit­ed that from our stu­dent proj­ect we've man­aged to come up with some­thing that could ul­ti­mately help peo­ple who have really lim­it­ed move­ment. It would be fan­tas­tic to see lots of peo­ple across the world cre­at­ing new games and ap­plica­t­ions us­ing our soft­ware,” added Ian Beer, a third year un­der­grad­u­ate from the De­part­ment of Com­put­ing at the school.

Re­search­ers in Fai­sal's lab are try­ing to re­fine the tech­nol­o­gy so that it can mon­i­tor move­ments in both eyes. This would ena­ble a us­er to car­ry out more com­pli­cat­ed tasks such as plot­ting a jour­ney on screen. This, they said, might ul­ti­mately al­low them to use eye move­ments to steer a mo­tor­ised wheel­chair.


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College students have developed a computer game that is operated by eye movements, which could allow people with severe physical disabilities to become “gamers” for the first time, scientists have announced. The students, from Imperial College London, have adapted a game called “Pong,” where a player moves a bat to hit a ball as it bounces around the screen. The adaptation enables the player to move the bat using an eye. The user wears special glasses containing an infrared light and a webcam that records the movement of one eye. The webcam is linked to a laptop where a computer program syncs the player's eye movements to the game. The prototype game is very simple but the students say the technology could be adapted to create more sophisticated games and applications such as wheelchairs and computer cursors controlled by eye movements. A major advantage of the technology is that it is inexpensive, the developers said; it uses off-the-shelf hardware and costs about $37 to make. Eye movement systems that scientists currently use to study the brain and eye motion cost around $40,000, say the researchers. “Remarkably, our undergraduates have created this piece of neurotechnology using bits of kit that you can buy in a shop,” said computing and bioengineering expert Aldo Faisal, the team's supervisor at the college. “The game that they've developed is quite simple, but we think it has enormous potential, particularly because it doesn't need lots of expensive equipment. We hope to eventually make the technology available online so anyone can have a go at creating new applications and games with it and we're optimistic about where this might lead. We hope it could ultimately provide entertainment options for people who have very little movement. In the future, people might be able to blink to turn pages in an electronic book, or switch on their favourite song, with the roll of an eye.” “This game is just an early prototype, but we're really excited that from our student project we've managed to come up with something that could ultimately help people who have really limited movement. It would be fantastic to see lots of people across the world creating new games and applications using our software,” added Ian Beer, a third year undergraduate from the Department of Computing at the school. Researchers in Faisal's lab are trying to refine the technology so that it can monitor movements in both eyes. This would enable a user to carry out more complicated tasks such as plotting a journey on screen. This might ultimately allow them to use eye movements to steer a motorised wheelchair.