Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A boon to Paraplegics

Shankar is a 12 years old boy. Having got much interest in the field of computer technology, he used to participate various competitions involving computer presentations and software program designing. He wins the competition every-time he participates, leaving his parents to wonder how he had learned those programming languages. He used to learn everything about technology from the net through his PC. One day, he was riding on his motor-cycle at break-neck speed. It was a bad weather for him and his parents. Unfortunately, he got stuck beneath a container lorry which smashed both of his hands and caused severe other complications. Also, he lost his speech. Even after recovering from the serious injury, he felt like hell as he could not operate his computer, which bagged him good conduct, appreciations and knowledge. But he never lose hope. Now, he operates his computer well again, not by his hands, but by his eyes. Thanks to Wolfgang Beinhauer and Fabian Herman of Fraunhofer Institute of Industrial Research, IAO, Stuttgart.

Yes. Those researchers have developed a new technology that enables one to access the computer menus through eye movements. A sensor device tracks the eye movements from 1 to 1.5 metre and transmits the co-ordinates of the area viewed to the mouse pointer of the monitor. The sensor device comprises IR-LEDs(Infra-red Light Emitting Diodes) and a micro CCD CAM(Charge Coupled Device Camera) which sends the tracked information to a computer through wires.

"Calculating the motion was comparatively easy while clicking presented a real challenge", says the developer.

In order to click any button one need to stare at the button for half a second.

A special software was designed by Fabian Herman which makes certain areas sensitive such that it can be activated by fixing the eyes on them for a certain length of time. The Graphical User Interface(GUI) measures this interval and decides whether the user wants to click the button or the user is just reading the menu text. Also, there's a drawback that if one takes more than half a second to read a text, the software decides it as a click.

To improvise this, the button changes color twice before it goes, "click". 

But still, there was a drawback. Our eyes make miniature jerky movements called microsacchades. While this involuntary jerky movements happen, the pointer dashes around all over the monitor. But this is overcame by using micro-filter software which suppresses theses micro-sacchades and then determines the main direction of movements.

This system is a great boon for differently-abled persons as it satisfies the cyber-thrist of such people without any hurdles. Soon we'll have an entirely different eye-controlled world!

(Thanks to Fraunhofer press release)

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