Precise low-cost electrical sensing for eye movement tracking

Imec is one of the world leading research and innovation hubs in both Nano-electronics and digital technology and Holst Center is set up by Imec and TNO. Both Imec and Holst Center today announced the development of sensing technology to detect the movement of eyes in real time based on electrical sensing. Imec has some promising applications in the field of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for the next generation of eye tracking technology.

Today’s eye movement detection technology makes use of high-resolution cameras which is embedded in eye-tracking screens or glasses. Such devices are already being commercialized for numerous applications such as in the field of healthcare, research, and gaming.

While camera-based solutions can accurately determine where users are looking, most cameras’ frame rates are not fast enough to match the rapid eye movements such as saccade which is a typical movement during reading. If you use a more advanced camera which matches the eyes speed would significantly increase the cost of these devices and could have implications for their commercial use. Imec’s solution, based on electrical sensing, offers a more inexpensive alternative while solving the issue of delay in processing the image.

Imec’s sensors are integrated into a set of glasses, with four built-in electrodes around each lens, two for the eye’s vertical movement and two for horizontal movements. Parallel to that, an advanced algorithm was developed to translate the signals into a concrete position, based on the angle the eye is making with its central point of vision. Imec’s solution also offers insights on the eye’s behavior such as the movements speed or the frequency and the duration of blinks.

“Human eyes have a natural electrical potential”, stated Gabriel Squillace, a researcher in the Biomedical Applications and Systems group at Imec. “At Imec, we are leveraging this feature to develop the next-generation of eye-movement detection devices that detects the eye’s position in real-time at five times lower cost and up to four times faster than what is currently available in the market. Imec’s ultimate goal is to develop a solution that can track the eye’s most rapid movements such as saccades, enabling seamless real-time tracking for Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality applications.”

The possible application of this technology includes a complement to current camera-based solutions, potentially developing cheaper and faster eye-movement detection devices.

Currently, this is being tested and shows promising results on eye behavior and blink detection. Users are able to interact with screens with the eyes by moving the cursor and using different blinking patterns for distinct actions such as selecting files, dragging and dropping, opening, and closing applications.

More information can be found at: Holst Centre.

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