University students have developed a computer game that is operated by eye movements, which could allow people with severe physical disabilities to become 'gamers' for the first time.
The technology behind the game may one day be adapted to create more sophisticated games and applications such as wheelchairs and computer cursors controlled by eye movements.
The researchers adapted an open source game called 'Pong', where a player moves a bat to hit a ball as it bounces around the screen. The adaptation enables the player to move the bat using their eye.
To play the game, the user wears special glasses containing an infrared light and a webcam that records the movement of one eye. The webcam is linked to a laptop where a computer program syncs the player's eye movements to the game.
One of the major benefits of the new technology is that it is inexpensive, using off-the-shelf hardware and costing approximately $35 to make. Eye movement systems that scientists currently use to study the brain and eye motion cost around $36,000, say the researchers.
"We hope to eventually make the technology available online so anyone can have a go at creating new applications and games with it and we're optimistic about where this might lead," said aid Dr Aldo Faisal, from the Department of Computing and the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London.
"We hope it could ultimately provide entertainment options for people who have very little movement. In the future, people might be able to blink to turn pages in an electronic book, or switch on their favorite song, with the roll of an eye."
"This game is just an early prototype, but we're really excited that from our student project we've managed to come up with something that could ultimately help people who have really limited movement. It would be fantastic to see lots of people across the world creating new games and applications using our software," adds Ian Beer, a third year undergraduate from the Department of Computing.
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