We’ve seen tech that lets you control a drone with body movement and with facial expressions. And now, the engineers at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory have teamed up to create a new tech that lets you control a drone with your eye movement. With a pair of eye-tracking glasses, you can tell your drone where to fly simply by moving your eyes.
The research team explains how the system works, describing that it uses a gaze tracker, a camera, and an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) installed into the glasses. This system can perform different tasks. It can estimate the relative position of the pilot in relation to the drone and allow them to send new 3D navigation waypoints to the drone. Also, it can “decouple the gaze direction from the head orientation,” meaning that you can control the drone with your gaze no matter in which direction your head is turned.
The team writes that they use a combination of camera and IMU data to decouple the human gaze from the head motion. And in order to detect the drone, they use a deep neural network. As for the applications of this method, there are a number of them. The first that came to my mind is using this tech for people with disabilities. The team behind the eye-controlled drone mentions it too, but they also point out that it could be used for “inspection” and “first response” as well.
Now, this seems pretty awesome at the first sight (no pun intended). But a drawback I see is that you have to be really focused on the direction of your gaze, which isn’t always as easy as it may sound. The direction of your gaze is not always voluntary and completely controlled, so I guess this can be a bit of a challenge.