Control the future with the blink of an eye

A PhD student from the University has developed a wireless robot which is controlled simply by using the human eye.

The project uses sophisticated eye-tracking technology and could change the lives of thousands of disabled people.

Suraj Verma, a Master of Science student from the University’s School of Engineering, Design and Technology, has created the robot, under the supervision of lecturer Dr Prashant Pillai. Intelligent Recognition for Interactive Systems (IRIS) Communication, the name given to the project, has been developed to employ eye-tracking technology in the field of robotic navigation, home automation and media and marketing research.

A head-mounted eye tracker has been developed which detects the movement of the human eye and accordingly  controls the navigation of the robot via Bluetooth. The developed system can also turn on/off lights and other electrical appliances in the room using the X10 wireless protocol – an open standard for wireless control of household electronic devices using bursts of radio frequency signals.

The main aim of this project was to aid physically challenged people in communicating and being able to control their household appliances. Systems using sound and touch to control a computer are available to help disabled people, but the IRIS Communication system uses eye-tracking to control the computer and other household  appliances.

Dr Pillai said: “The advanced eye-tracking technology used in this project has several practical future applications in the research area of assisted living, especially for the disabled. The technology used in this project could be extended to control an electric wheelchair by just looking in the direction in which you want it to go, and this is what we would like to explore next.”

Apart from real-time control of the robot and the household appliances, the IRIS system can also be used in the field of media and marketing research as the system can be used to determine the amount of attention given by a user to any form of media such as advertisement posters, magazine articles and websites. The system could assess  the effectiveness of outdoor posters and hoardings to see if they attract the attention of pedestrians. The  system can be easily extended to control the computer mouse, browse the internet, replace game controls and operate a mobile phone via the computer.