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Your Eyes Can’t Betray You!

Latest Developments In Eye Interaction Technology

Have you ever thought that a human eye can interact with the augmented world which can measure online behavior, assist you in performing tasks, interact with the virtual world during gaming, pop up displays for various operations, provide help for medical practitioners in the operating room, relay weather forecasts and, and much more? Till now, we used to think that the human eye is just an organ to see and revel in the serene beauty of the world around us. However, due to the advancements in modern technology, a human eye can do much more than just “see” things.

How are the technologists and researchers able to integrate the real world by using  eye and brain combination? Why are startups like Eyefluence, Tobii and Fove creating such a hype in the market with this technology? What is this buzz all about? The answer to all these questions lies in the latest eye interaction technology which has potential to change the future of communication, expression and gaming.

This technology will be able to track where and what we are looking at and respond to that object or view. Eye interaction really opens up a huge number of possibilities for us. Everything from a faster user-interface interaction to improved PC behavior. We can even create surprisingly realistic human interaction during gaming, when you look at any virtual object and when it looks back at you.

When the market was first introduced to the beta version of this technology, one thing which was running in the minds of many (including me) was – What will be the architecture used to track and interact with the eyes? Will skin electrodes be used ? Or contact lenses (screen less displays)?  Or, will we have head mounted displays (HMDs) or a remote system? All of these have possible pros and cons.  HMDs probably have a better future, as they don’t restrict the user’s head movements like other architectures. The HMD is however, fundamentally incomplete without the usage of eyes. But what does this mean? There are simple, but valuable and quite mundane tasks like panning, zooming, clicking, scanning, interacting with eyes using HMDs. How do we control and use our eyes to interact with the world? The whole concept of the eye interaction technology is transforming intent into action through human eyes.

The Architecture Of HMD

How are companies mentioned above, making use of HMDs for eye interaction and tracking?

Starting off, the vision driven interaction uses eye-brain connection and uses HMD’s co004375_10_fig3ntrols using eye movement. Imagine the power of doing anything under HMD faster than the fingers on a smart phone. The HMD consists of inbuilt microdisplays, IR-LED illuminators, IR CCD sensors and miniaturized mirrors / cameras. The job of the eye sensors attached to the HMDs is to track the retina positions when a user looks at the display and can bring the exact position to focus, whilst the IR illuminators illuminate the eyes which leads to dark pupil and corneal reflection of images of the LEDs. The sensors help in capturing the reflected pictures from the cornea. So when an image is projected by the microdisplay on to the eye, the cornea helps in reflecting back the image and the CCD eye sensor captures the image as well as the position of the eye. Hence, when the user moves the eye, the position is tracked to exactly what he or she is seeing on the image and this helps the user perform different tasks without even using his or her hands.

Future and related challenges

Eye interaction technology using HMDs has a promising future in the Augmented, Virtual and Mixed reality industry. The applications of eye tracking using HMDs are projected to go beyond the limits, from just gaming to almost every industry, including, entertainment, aviation, automotive, commercial and so on. Current interactions, which are dominated by graphical user interfaces, will give way to a revolutionary experience where every human being can see the world in a novel, new and personalized way. As HMDs grow in sophistication, these may even replace mobile devices in the future. 

The future will see affordable HMD products with eye interaction technology, which may even be priced, close to $400 – cheaper than an iPhone. This will be possible due to the advancements in the technologies especially those which are primarily shrinking the size of HMDs and the usage of LED micro-displays for better quality.

“You’ll get 20/20, perfectly augmented vision by 2020, with movie-quality special effects blended seamlessly into the world around you. There’s more of the world than meets the eye, and that’s what’s coming” – Dave Lorenzini, a former director at Keyhole.com, now known as Google Earth

Well, it seems very interesting when we talk about such technologies which can change the entire face of communication and the way we interact with the virtual and the augmented world. But there are many obstacles and challenges facing HMDs and the world of eye-interaction technologies. How are companies in this field  overcoming the challenges and making such confident predictions about the future?

The brightness, quality and color sources

Even though LEDs have evolved and are being used in HMDs to adjust the color and quality, they still cannot display the desired image. The market may witness a technology which can scan the image directly on the retina of the user resulting in the display of  brighter, high resolution and contrasted images. This is known as Virtual Retina Display. This technology is expected to be integrated with eye interacting technology for better visual effects. 

The quality of microdisplays

Microdisplays present a breathtaking opportunity for various applications in the present and near future. These are also being used in HMDs and HUDs. Most of the microdisplay manufacturers concentrate on the architecture they are building on and neglect the final output. As it is very expensive to develop microdisplays, most of the vendors compromise on quality. However, with the advent of organic LCoS, LED microdisplays and the effort of researchers to develop more efficient prototypes, the HMDs are expected to be the best products which integrate the eye tracking technology.

Style and retinal adjustments

Till now, all the HMDs using eye interaction technology are posing ergonomically difficult challenges. A user needs to use a separate earpiece or headset for sound effects. The greater part of the equipment connected with the device should be covered up in the sidebands of the glasses so that the head width is in a proper position and the user can set the angle of the optical combiner to the visual axis. But that angle has not been accepted by the business sector from a style perspective. It is believed that to overcome this challenge, optics innovation by Sony, Lumus and others will make it possible to adjust the width of the head with the geometrics or waveguides.

This technology is revolutionary in nature and will bring a fundamental change in communications as we know today. Thus we are reminded the title of Aldous Huxley’s path-breaking novel of the 20th century. We are indeed entering the “Brave New World” of communications with the advent of eye-interaction technology and intelligent devices which use it.