Build an eye tracking headset for $90

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Eye tracking is a really cool technology used in dozens of fields ranging from linguistics, human-computer interaction, and marketing. With a proper eye tracking setup, it’s possible for a web developer to see if their changes to the layout are effective, to measure how fast someone reads a page of text, and even diagnose medical disorders. Eye tracking setups haven’t been cheap, though, at least until now. Pupil is a serious, research-quality eye tracking headset designed by [Moritz] and [William] for their thesis at MIT.

The basic idea behind Pupil is to put one digital camera facing the user’s eye while another camera looks out on the world. After calibrating the included software, the headset looks at the user’s pupil to determine where they’re actually looking.

The hardware isn’t specialized at all – just a pair of $20 USB webcams, a LED, an infrared filter made from exposed 35mm film negatives, and a 3D printed headset conveniently for sale at Shapeways.

The software for Pupil is based on OpenCV and OpenGL and is available for Mac and Linux. Calibration is easy, as seen in the videos after the break, and the results are amazing for an eye tracking headset thrown together for under $100.

 

38 thoughts on “Build an eye tracking headset for $90

  1. This could be useful for quadriplegics as well. This would require some modification to handle clicking via blinking or possibly a mouth control as well. Very cool project.

  2. Who can be the first to make a mouse out of it?
    Second camera for your other eye? dare you to be able to use it as multitouch and do scaling/rotation :-)

    1. Check these guys out: Grinbath.com they have a complete system already made. You can do a lot more than click a mouse with this…

    1. Yes, seriously, both Mac and Linux are a lot more alike than Windows, especially when it comes to code building toolchains, like GCC, and libraries associated therewith. I know, it’s shocking, such a novel concept, isn’t it?

  3. Resolution? Arc seconds? You need high speed cameras and high resolution to be meaningful enough to use as a mouse replacement.

    1. I considered something like this to track pupil convergence in the oculus. The problem is that the eyepieces are so close to your eyes that you’d have a difficult time getting a camera in there. The only possibility would be to mount the camera with the screen, but again, I think the distortion from the lenses might cause a major issue.

        1. nah, you can do an even simpler glsl style distortion effect, then take the inverse of that.
          Its what games for the Rift already do to get rid of the distortion.

    1. Hi,
      We try to keep the list up to date. Check the “more buying choices option”. The cameras should be listed much cheaper there. Also you can buy used (does not matter really) and go even lower. Hope this can clarify some things.

    1. A good eye tracker can control a mouse with enough precision to do most tasks — certainly no worse than a trackpad, and maybe better. I don’t know if this is a good eye tracker, but I’m inclined to say that it’s not ready for those kinds of apps. It still needs a PC to do the computations, which are non-trivial, and OpenCV is a paragon of bloatware, so it’s not doing them fast. Here’s a link to the company I mentioned previously http://www.army.mil/article/74675/ This is special purpose for now, but ultimately it doesn’t use any exotic components and it could scale to a low-cost model, say under $400. The processing is done internally… tablet is for diagnosis.

  4. Brilliant, well done and all that. But, does anybody else find the eyeball close-up freaky just a bit? It reminds me of A Clockwork Orange.

    1. Yeah, it’s safe. Even for high-fps systems, where the cameras need more light, the IR level is way below the safety limit.

  5. This is great. Like the neat 3D printed headset.

    Yes, following on from above we are working on a similar project here in London but aimed at helping people with severe motor disorders since 2009. We hope to use 3D gaze interaction to control wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs.

    See our progress:

    http://uk.reuters.com/video/2012/09/09/eye-control-glasses-offer-new-world-to-s?videoId=237615205

    http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/24/tech/mci-eye-tracking-gadget

    http://www.faisallab.com/

    For more tech info see our recent paper in J. Neural Eng:

    Ultra-low-cost 3D gaze estimation: an intuitive high information throughput compliment to direct brain–machine interfaces.

    http://iopscience.iop.org/1741-2552/9/4/046016

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