Device lets disabled play games with their eyes

A new set of glasses costing less than $60 could allow gamers to play using only their eye movements – ideal for the disabled, say its inventors.

Built from off-the-shelf materials, the device consists simply of an eye-tracking device and software. It uses just one watt of power and can transmit data wirelessly over Wifi or via USB into any Windows or Linux computer.

Using it, says the Imperial College London team, people were able to play Pong, browse the web and write emails hands-free.

The GT3D device is made up of two fast video game console cameras, attached outside the line of vision to a pair of glasses. Not only can the cameras track where a person is looking on the screen, they can also establish how far into the distance they’re looking.

This means users could also control an electronic wheelchair or robotic prosthetic arm with the device.

“Crucially, we have achieved two things: we have built a 3D eye tracking system hundreds of times cheaper than commercial systems and used it to build a real-time brain machine interface that allows patients to interact more smoothly and more quickly than existing invasive technologies that are tens of thousands of times more expensive,” says Dr Aldo Faisal.

“This is frugal innovation; developing smarter software and piggy-backing existing hardware to create devices that can help people worldwide independent of their healthcare circumstances.”

Pong may be a simple game – but controlling it via other hands-free methods such as EEG has proved very difficult. With the new glasses, though, subjects hit scores within 20 per cent of those of able-bodied users, after just 10 minutes of use.