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Indian-origin Scientist develops Software that turns Smartphones into an Eye-Tracking device

A discovery that can help in psychological experiments and marketing research

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Representational Image- Eye. Image source: galaxys8info.com
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New York: Researchers led by an Indian-origin scientist have developed a software that can turn any smartphone into an eye-tracking device, a discovery that can help in psychological experiments and marketing research.

In addition to making existing applications of eye-tracking technology more accessible, the system could enable new computer interfaces or help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness.

Since few people have the external devices, there’s no big incentive to develop applications for them.

“Since there are no applications, there’s no incentive for people to buy the devices. We thought we should break this circle and try to make an eye tracker that works on a single mobile device, using just your front-facing camera,” explained Aditya Khosla, graduate student in electrical engineering and computer science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

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Khosla and his colleagues from MIT and University of Georgia built their eye tracker using machine learning, a technique in which computers learn to perform tasks by looking for patterns in large sets of training examples.

Currently, Khosla says, their training set includes examples of gaze patterns from 1,500 mobile-device users.

Previously, the largest data sets used to train experimental eye-tracking systems had topped out at about 50 users.

To assemble data sets, “most other groups tend to call people into the lab,” Khosla says.

“It’s really hard to scale that up. Calling 50 people in itself is already a fairly tedious process. But we realised we could do this through crowdsourcing,” he added.

In the paper, the researchers report an initial round of experiments, using training data drawn from 800 mobile-device users.

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On that basis, they were able to get the system’s margin of error down to 1.5 centimetres, a twofold improvement over previous experimental systems.

The researchers recruited application users through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk crowdsourcing site and paid them a small fee for each successfully executed tap. The data set contains, on average, 1,600 images for each user.

The team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and the University of Georgia described their new system in a paper set to presented at the “Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition” conference in Las Vegas on June 28. (IANS)

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This can help many doctors. If developed more, the eye tracking software should be able to sensor the eye defects also like Myopia, Hypermetropia, etc so that it becomes easier for the doctors and big machines would be avoided.

  • AJ Krish

    Technology has advanced so far to reduce human effort. This new software has wide range of applications and can also help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness. I believe that this research can revolutionize the medical world.

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  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This can help many doctors. If developed more, the eye tracking software should be able to sensor the eye defects also like Myopia, Hypermetropia, etc so that it becomes easier for the doctors and big machines would be avoided.

  • AJ Krish

    Technology has advanced so far to reduce human effort. This new software has wide range of applications and can also help detect signs of incipient neurological disease or mental illness. I believe that this research can revolutionize the medical world.

Next Story

Electric Fields Used By Spiders To Take Flight: Research

Charles Darwin remarked on the behavior when tiny spiders landed on the HMS Beagle, trailing lines of silk.

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A spider sits in her web. Researchers from England think spiders might be sensing and using electrostatic fields to become airborne.
A spider sits in her web. Researchers from England think spiders might be sensing and using electrostatic fields to become airborne. VOA

Since the 1800s, scientists have marveled at how spiders can take flight using their webbing. Charles Darwin remarked on the behavior when tiny spiders landed on the HMS Beagle, trailing lines of silk. He thought the arachnids might be using heat-generated updrafts to take to the sky, but new research shows a totally different cause may be at play.

Erica Morley and Daniel Robert from the University of Bristol in England were interested in exploring a second explanation for the spiders’ ability. They thought spiders might sense and use electrostatic fields in the air.

“There have been several studies looking at how air movement and wind can get spiders airborne, but the electrostatic hypothesis was never tested,” Morley told VOA.

Some observers suggested electrostatic fields might be the reason the multiple draglines some spiders use to float don’t get tangled with each other. Biologist Kimberley Sheldon from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, who was not involved in the new research, pointed out that “though these spiders will have five or six draglines, those strands of silk do not get entangled. So we’ve known for a while that electrostatics probably [are] at least interacting with the spider, with the silk lines themselves, to keep them from getting tangled.”

Morley and Robert created a box with a grounded metal plate on the bottom and a plate on the top that they could pass an electrical current through. The scientists placed spiders in the box and turned on the voltage, watching as the creatures reacted to the electric field.

Reaction to current

When the electric field was on, the spiders lifted their abdomens into the air and started tiptoeing by raising up on the very ends of their legs. Morley told VOA that spiders only tiptoe right before they release silk draglines to fly away, in a process called ballooning.

And when the spiders did balloon and rise into the air, turning off the electric current caused them to drop.

Sheldon compared it to taking a balloon and rubbing it against your clothing. “If you hold the balloon [near your head], your hair stands on end. That’s kind of what’s happening with the spider silk.”

Spiders Use Electric Fields to Take Flight: Research
Spiders Use Electric Fields to Take Flight: Research. Pixabay

Clearly the spiders were able to sense the local electrostatic field and respond appropriately by releasing silk, but Morley and Robert wanted to know how.

“As a sensory biologist, I was keen to understand what sensory system they might use to detect electric fields,” said Morley. “We know that they have very sensitive hairs that are displaced by air movements or even sound. So I thought that it’s possible that they might be using these same hairs to detect electric fields.”

This was exactly what she observed. The small hairs along the spiders’ legs react not only to physical experiences like a breeze but also to the electric field. In nature, it makes sense for spiders to sense both the electrostatic field around them as well as wind conditions. Spiders probably use both when taking off and navigating the skies.

Mathematician Longhua Zhao from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland has made computer models of how spiders balloon. She told VOA, “I think that both the electrical field and the fluid mechanics [of air flow] are important. They definitely play very important roles. However, we don’t know at this point which is the dominant factor.”

Also read: Did You Hear about the New Species of Spiders Named After Leonardo DiCaprio, Bernie Sanders and Barrack Obama?

Lead researcher Morley pointed out that spiders aren’t the only invertebrates to balloon. “Caterpillars and spider mites, which are arachnids but not spiders, balloon as well.” Morley hopes to see others follow up her research to see if these other animals respond in a way similar to the spiders. (VOA)