Eye-tracking technology allows people who are unable to type or manipulate a mouse to use a computer. While a camera captures their eye movements, they can move a cursor with their gaze or type on an on-screen keyboard by staring at individual keys. But darting the eyes around like that can be dizzying, and it’s a slow process.
A new gaze-operated text-entry system called Dasher is faster, more accurate, and easier to use than existing systems, say its inventors in the Aug. 22 Nature.
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“Eyes didn’t evolve to push buttons,” says coinventor David J.C. MacKay of the University of Cambridge in England. Rather, eyes are good at searching. Dasher is like a fast-paced video game where the user hunts for letters. Each letter is in a box sized according to the letter’s frequency in written English.
After a user chooses each letter in a word, the system predicts the probability of the following letter and resizes the boxes accordingly. More likely letters are in larger boxes that draw the eye. A person’s gaze at a box selects that letter. The system takes advantage of the predictability of normal language, MacKay says.
The researchers tested Dasher against a gaze-operated on-screen keyboard. Using Dasher, people could write up to 25 words per minute, compared with only 15 words per minute using an on-screen keyboard. Dasher users also committed far fewer errors.
Besides eye-tracking computer setups, any pointing device, such as a mouse or touch-screen wand, can drive Dasher, MacKay says. “People find it fun to use.”