Ultra-low-cost 3D gaze estimation: an intuitive high information throughput compliment to direct brain–machine interfaces
Eye movements are highly correlated with motor intentions and are often retained by patients with serious motor deficiencies. Despite this, eye tracking is not widely used as control interface for movement in impaired patients due to poor signal interpretation and lack of control flexibility. We propose that tracking the gaze position in 3D rather than 2D provides a considerably richer signal for human machine interfaces by allowing direct interaction with the environment rather than via computer displays. We demonstrate here that by using mass-produced video-game hardware, it is possible to produce an ultra-low-cost binocular eye-tracker with comparable performance to commercial systems, yet 800 times cheaper. Our head-mounted system has 30 USD material costs and operates at over 120 Hz sampling rate with a 0.5–1 degree of visual angle resolution. We perform 2D and 3D gaze estimation, controlling a real-time volumetric cursor essential for driving complex user interfaces. Our approach yields an information throughput of 43 bits s−1, more than ten times that of invasive and semi-invasive brain–machine interfaces (BMIs) that are vastly more expensive. Unlike many BMIs our system yields effective real-time closed loop control of devices (10 ms latency), after just ten minutes of training, which we demonstrate through a novel BMI benchmark-–the control of the video arcade game ‘Pong’.