Researchers turn to eyeballs to control devices

By Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service |  Personal Tech, Ceatec, NTT DoCoMo

Researchers at NTT DoCoMo have developed a set of prototype in-ear headphones that can detect and measures changes in the body's electrical state that take place when your eyes move, and have harnessed this technology to control the music player on a mobile phone.

Under development for three years, the eye-control technology relies on special electrodes that measure electrical changes in the body caused by eye movements, said Masaaki Fukumoto, an engineer at DoCoMo's Frontier Technology Group that developed the in-ear headset. These changes can be used to determine the direction that the eyes are looking.

The headset, which was demonstrated at the Ceatec exhibition in Chiba, Japan, allows users to control a phone's music player by moving their eyes in certain patterns. The system uses eye movements that are not frequently used in daily life, such as moving your eyes from looking straight ahead to the right twice in quick succession, to help the system differentiate between operational commands and normal eye movements, Fukumoto said.

In the demonstration at DoCoMo's booth, a company representative used their eyes to control the music player, playing and pausing songs.

The eye-control technology has been under development by DoCoMo for three years and much work remains to be done before it's ready for commercial use. One of the biggest challenges is to refine the electrode as the size and shape of each person's ear can be different, Fukumoto said.

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