Robot eyes look where you do

This robot eye can move five times faster than the human eye. It’s capable of being used to follow a human gaze and, as you can see by that coin, it’s small enough to be used in pairs. When used to follow your gaze it needs a custom-made eye tracker. The thought here is that a lot can be learned about a person’s psyche by monitoring what they are focusing on. But we wonder about the augmented reality properties of a setup like this.

Imagine a pair of glasses as a heads up display. If this camera knows where you’re looking it can process the items in your gaze and overlay digital information. As with all new technology there are obvious military uses for this, but we’d be more interested in a Flickr pool type collection of people’s real-world experiences. Like subscribing to the locations of that thumb drive network in NYC and having the camera/glasses guide you to the nearest installation.

Want to see how fast this thing responds? Check out the video after the break.

[via Neatorama]


  1. Physics_Dude says:

    If I’m not mistaken, that uses the same magnetic technology that your hard drive uses to move the pinheads.

  2. Xavier says:

    This has honestly been my dream for so long.

  3. Rodrigo says:

    where i can get all about this project to make on for me??

  4. andres says:

    good god, imagine a polite little helper bot with insane twitchy eyes. i’m going to have nightmares.

  5. rasz says:

    the head can be adapted from RC heli, but i wonder what are those actuators? maybe something like CDrom mechanism?

  6. blah says:

    must be a nice camera to capture stuff moving at that speeds

  7. QuincyMd says:

    I like how it’s poking through some white board.

    Turn the picture upside down and it’s “Ceiling robot is watching you….”

  8. noonv says:

    eye for Terminator :)

  9. Willyshop says:

    I want to see some video from it!

  10. Marco says:

    Given that it’s from an applied mechanics institute I would expect them to be using custom-made parts, not scavenging old CD-ROM drives.

  11. Moe says:

    can’t you achieve this with an RC heli swashplate?

  12. Tiago says:

    I would say that they are using linear actuators, they are using linear encoders and even how the actuator moves points to linear.

  13. Joseph Benjamin Weld says:

    They need to post another video after they make two then stick them in a doll’s eyesockets.

  14. wernicke says:

    We could keep guessing that they’re CD or HDD drive actuators or linear actuators, or we could read the article and discover that they are piezo actuators.
    The only piezo actuators I’ve worked with (other than in ink jet printers) are in ultrasonic welders… and they’ve got nowhere near the stroke that these do. Neat stuff.

  15. rasz says:

    ah yes, linear actuator, I didnt know the proper name, just that this kind of mechanism is in CDROM drives
    should be fairly easy to replicate with RC Heli swashplate and 3 CDROM mechanisms
    now do only find a good use for it … :)

  16. Tiago says:

    I dont know any cdrom that have linear actuators, usually the laser head is moved using a stepper and a worm gear.

  17. zzzomb says:

    Back to these piezo actuators again. They seem to show alot of promise. The same actuators are used to control parts of dslr lenses. Microscopic xyz table anyone? Unfortunately the article doesnt address the real show stopper when it comes to progress…

    The motors/drivers are insanely expensive to buy premade. There is also no instructions out in the wild showing how to build one, particularly recipes how to make piezo materials. I wonder if multiple layers cut up flat disk piezo buzzers on top of each other could do the trick. Removing a channel on one of these to divide it up into separately controllable sectors which warp the one disk has worked at a very tiny scale for amateur stm microscopes so I wonder if this idea could extend to linear actuators.

  18. Fjr says:

    I don’t see any reason for this to have 3 actuators. I mean I guess it’s nice for showcasing mechanics and what things can do. But twisting a camera image doesn’t have any use that I know of.

  19. drew says:

    zzzomb, that’s what I was afraid of. Piezoelectric actuators are exotic expensive. Couldn’t you use a servo instead, and a pantograph linkage for each of the 3 links instead of the prismatic joints, which need piezoelectric linear actuators to work?

    I don’t think piezo actuators are something doable by homebrew methods.

    If you read the link, everyone commenting about RC heli swashplates is right- they even claim that’s where the design idea came from.

    I would buy one of these right now if I could afford it- I can’t. I would build one if I could afford the only component I can’t make- the actuators- I can’t.

    This is a quantum leap for people like me who have immediate application for this setup, but frustrating as hell because I have no budget to pay 1000+ $ for the actuators alone, which is a lowball estimate- it’s another one of those items that no one prices on a site, it’s all custom order.

    Has anyone found the paper that describes the build of this? There is one, from a robotics conference, but I can’t find a copy anywhere.

    Is there any way this could be done with something in the hobbiest or robotics builder’s budget?

  20. Ben says:

    Twisting the camera is necessary if you want to mimic human eyes. Look at your eye in the mirror and rotate your head about the axis of your line of sight, you will see that your eye can stay level while your head rotates about it. The range of motion is limited, but you can twist your eyes.

  21. bob says:

    This could be used to solve the perspective problems in 3D visualizations.

    Put your finger in front of your face. Keep looking at it, but try and pay attention to the scene behind it. It is blurry and out of focus. This gives perspective.

    Most 3D work is perfectly crisp and clear, layers painted onto each other. Being able to track what the eye is looking at, and adjusting the depth of field of the other parts of the image will be a huge leap in realistic 3D.

  22. zeropointmodule says:

    muscle wire maybe?

    as for homemade actuators, one thought i had is to use the BaTiO3 paste in the EL kits mentioned on here to make them.

    obviously you need to use several layers and get an even coating (sellotape+parts from print head) but it should work.

  23. Tiago says:

    Servos and some linkages would work too, but would be a lot bigger, but if you can cope with the extra size go for it.

  24. echodelta says:

    I have mounted a laser on a head position-er before. The thought then went to tiny camera, a simple affair of epoxy and reusing the ribbon wires. X or one dimension only. Going further, three would keep the simple rotation that is already in the sweet bearings. Direct drive center of motor to center of yoke. Much like pots on a joystick. Zed axis is the whole thing mounted on a third motor. Keep it simple. For sure, one of the best hacks for hard drive head motors. Get ‘em while they last. Solid state, no bearings no motors no magnets. All great hack food.

  25. Wes says:

    “But twisting a camera image doesn’t have any use that I know of.”

    It would be pretty useful if the vehicle the camera is mounted to were to lean out of the horizontal for any reason — a robot moving over uneven terrain, for example. The camera could twist to keep the image level.

  26. I saw someone ask if this can be done with a heli swash plate.

    I have adapter one here:

  27. Whatnot says:

    Cute but I’m sure the video output of that camera is nothing but a colorful psychedelic blur.

    And incidentally don’t the anti-shake optics in modern cameras also move that fast? Not to mention those robot that put parts on PCB’s.

  28. pRoFlT says:

    @wes, I think all you need is gyro and compass mounted to the camera. Then there is no need for rotate on the camera. Just do it in software.

    Although, with compass and a gyro you could also keep the camera level with the ground.

  29. The augmented relaity question doesn’t even make any sense.

  30. Eirinn says:

    @blah yeah that was also what i was thinking, can the camera even update that fast? the movement of the “eye” is amazing, but if the camera can’t keep up then the solution is not as well rounded as i’d hoped for.

  31. JC says:

    What ever is below the white board is much bigger than the coin.

  32. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Is this a PZT piezo? That’s wickedly impressive.

  33. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Those linear rails aren’t cheap either.

  34. Dave says:

    Very cool!……Reminds me of Universal Soldier!

  35. BlackCow says:

    Where can you get camera modules like that? That might be very useful for a project I’ve been thinking of.

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