Opening technology up to all

  • April 16, 2015
Opening technology up to all

Pradipta Biswas leads research team looking to help people with physical impairments to access technology.

Researchers led by a Gates Cambridge Scholar have devised a computer control interface which will help people with physical impairments and others who cannot use a mouse or touchscreeen to perform complex computing tasks at speed.

The team of researchers at the Department of Engineering, led by Dr Pradipta Biswas, has developed a computer control interface that uses a combination of eye-gaze tracking and other inputs. The team’s research was recently published in a paper, ‘Multimodal Intelligent Eye-Gaze Tracking System,’ in the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction.

The researchers provided two major enhancements to a standalone gaze-tracking system. First, sophisticated software interprets factors such as velocity, acceleration and bearing to provide a prediction of the user’s intended target. Next, a second mode of input is employed, such as a joystick.

“We hope that our eye-gaze tracking system can be used as an assistive technology for people with severe mobility impairment,” said Pradipta, a Senior Research Associate in the Department’s Engineering Design Group. “We are also exploring the potential applications in military aviation and automotive environments where operators’ hands are engaged with controlling an aircraft or vehicle.”

One challenge that arises when designing such a system is, once the target is selected, how does the user indicate a desire for selection? On a typical personal computer, this is accomplished with a click of the mouse; with a phone or tablet, a tap on the screen.

Basic eye-gaze tracking systems often use a signal such as blinking the eyes to indicate this choice. However, blinking is not often ideal. For example, in combat situations, pilots’ eyes might dry up, precluding their ability to blink at the right time.

Pradipta’s team experimented with several ways to solve the selection problem, including manipulating joystick axes, enlarging predicted targets, and using a spoken keyword such as ‘fire’ to indicate a target.

Unsurprisingly, they found that a mouse remains the fastest and least-cognitively stressful method of selecting a target – possibly assisted by the fact that most computer users are already comfortable with this technique. But, a multimodal approach combining eye-gaze tracking, predictive modelling, and a joystick can almost match a mouse in terms of accuracy and cognitive load. Further, when testing computer novices and with sufficient training in the system, the intelligent multimodal approach can even be faster.

The hope is that these revelations will lead to systems that perform as well – or better – than a mouse. “I am very excited for the prospects of this research,” Pradipta said. “When clicking a mouse isn’t possible for everyone, we need something else that’s just as good.”

Latest News

Gut bacteria links to immune responses in the brain

Bugs in the gut may hold the key to protective immune measures in the brain which could have implications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, according to a new study led by Gates Cambridge Scholar Zachary Fitzpatrick. A paper based on his PhD research has recently been published in Nature and it highlights […]

Exploring the social barriers to take-up of green technology

How can rural communities be encouraged to take up green energy solutions? A new study co-authored by Gates Cambridge Scholar Ramit Debnath investigates the social barriers to uptake of household appliances fuelled by green energy. Based on research on more than 14.5K households in rural communities in Rwanda, the study, published in Renewable Energy, found […]

A new technique to decode the way the nervous system works

How do the billions of neurons in the human brain work together to give rise to thought or certain types of behaviour? A new study led by Gates Cambridge Alumnus Eviatar Yemini [2007] outlines a colouring technique, known as NeuroPAL (a Neuronal Polychromatic Atlas of Landmarks), which makes it possible – at least in experiments […]

An innovative approach to plant protection

Shauna-Lee Chai is passionate about working on wicked problems, about using her entrepreneurial skills to improve the lives of others and about seeing the big picture, something she says her experience as a Gates Cambridge Scholar contributed to. Her expertise is in invasive plant species and for three years she was Board Director of the […]