Five Samsung Engineers embarked on an independent project to help severely paralyzed individuals communicate with the world again. As a result, they created an inexpensive eye-tracking tool called the eyeCan. Patients can write text messages and even play games by controlling a computer mouse only with the movement of their eyes.
If eye-tracking technology rings a bell, that’s because it has a long history and has been used in many different applications. Companies use it to discover logos, ads and aspects of websites that consumers are most attracted to or turned off by. More than 9,000 paralyzed people including survivors of neuromuscular disease and spinal injuries already use computers and wheelchairs equipped with eye trackers to improve their quality of life.
However, the breakthrough aspect of the eyeCan is that its low cost gives it a much higher scalability. There’s a lot of potential in this easy-to-make tool to improve the lives of the disabled not only in Korea, but in developing countries as well.
The eyeCan is a pair of eyeglasses equipped with a small web camera. The camera captures the movements of the user’s pupil to move a mouse on a computer screen. One man with Lou Gehrig’s Disease was able to send a note of love and congratulations for his child’s graduation by using the eyeCan, as detailed in this feature article. People with other conditions such as Locked-In Syndrome (LIS), in which a person is awake but can’t move any part of their body, can also benefit from the eyeCan.
According to Dr. Bryan Reimer of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, eye trackers flood the eye with infra-red light, which the human eye reflects back in certain patterns. Whether the eye-tracker is worn on a person’s head or aimed at their eyes from a distance, it is possible to discern which direction the eye is pointing in.
If you want to see the eyeCan in use, check out this video on the project’s website:
The team from Samsung set out to make a kit that allows people to make an eyeCan in their own home at a low cost. Currently, products with vision tracking technology can be prohibitively expensive because they can cost up to $10,000 USD. The engineers explained that they made the eyeCan using an open source platform so that more people in need could benefit.
You can’t actually buy a ready-made eyeCan. On the project’s website, you will find full instructions on how to make an eyeCan with items you may already have at home. You’ll need items such as a pair of glasses, micro web camera and copper wires. Detailed videos teaching steps like breaking a webcam are all on the site along with software and a usage manual. Building your own eyeCan shouldn’t cost more than $100 USD.
About the author by Anna Sohn
I’m a New Jersey girl with a lifelong fascination with Korea, my motherland. In 2011, I moved to Seoul and I’ve enjoyed living in this wired and fast-paced city ever since. I’m excited to share the latest tech and design developments I encounter in Korea and hope you enjoy the AT&D blog as much I enjoy writing for it!