Eye tracking and gesture will control future mobile devices

March 13, 2013 - 

Biometrics Research Group, Inc. expects that technologies that track eye and gesture movements will play a large role in future mobile applications and devices.

According to a recent New York Times report, the newest smartphone from Samsung will have an eye-tracking feature that will allow its users to scroll down a page without having to touch the screen.

While Samsung has not revealed any details about the the technology it will be using, the firm has filed a trademark in the United States for the term “Samsung Eye Scroll” and has described the product as computer application software that can sense eye movements and facilitate scrolling display in mobile devices, namely, smartphones and tablet computers. Samsung does current utilizes an eye-tracking system in its Galaxy S III smartphone entitled “Smart Stay”, which uses its camera to determine whether a user is facing the screen, in order to determine whether the phone should stay illuminated.

While Samsung might not leverage biometrics for its new eye-tracking feature, there will be new technologies coming on stream that mobile devices and applications of the future might be able to leverage. Some of these technologies were recently described by our research firm in a special supplement that appeared in the Sunday Times last month.

According to our piece, while iris recognition technologies are commonplace, especially for public security functions, new biometric systems are emerging that are not limited to verifying identity against a static image of an eye.

In the article, we noted that: “A research team at the University of Tampere in Finland has proposed creating a biometric security system based on eye movement. Through video surveillance, Professor Martti Juhola and colleagues have proposed a system that would monitor saccades, the unique and rapid involuntary eye movements that all people make. Saccades are quick, simultaneous movements of both eyes in the same direction and once saccades are underway, they cannot be altered by will. A saccade is also an involuntary consequence of turning the head to one side or a sudden motion detected in one’s visual periphery.”

Their research determined that saccades are the most simplest eye movements to detect with signal analysis, and are very easy to trigger by asking an individual to look at one target and then another on a display. In the article, we also noted that the researchers found that it “would be much more difficult to hack or spoof an individual’s pattern of saccades than to emulate their iris with contact lenses or their fingerprints with patterned silicone pads, or by way of other forged images or prosthetics, because of the uniqueness of eye movements. Preliminary tests, reported in theInternational Journal of Biometrics, indicate that a biometric identity verification could be undertaken in as little as 30 seconds with 30 to 40 saccades being recorded, providing an accuracy rate of 90 to 100 per cent.” The improvement and use of such technology could create huge advantages for mobile devices and applications.

Changes in hand gesture technology might also be of benefit to mobile communications and computing. Recently, Thalmic Labs unveiled its MYO armband that tracks electrical activity in one’s muscles to wireless control computers, phones and other digital technologies.

The armband uses Bluetooth 4.0 low energy technology to communicate with devices it is paired with. It features on-board, rechargeable Lithium-Ion batteries, and an ARM processor. The MYO is outfitted with Thalmic’s proprietary muscle activity sensors. It also features a six-axis inertial measurement unit.

The MYO detects gestures and movements in two ways. Firstly, through muscle activity, and secondly, using motion sensing. When sensing the muscle movements of the user, the MYO can detect changes down to each individual finger. When tracking the position of the arm and hand, the MYO armband can detect subtle movements and rotations in all directions.

With Apple proposing to release a wristwatch type of device in the near future, such gesture-based technology should be monitored. According to various media reports, Apple is considering features for a watch that includes: telephone calls, caller ID and checking map coordinates. The device might also monitor health-related, biorhythm based data such as heart rates. It is conceivable that such a device might also incorporate gesture control to differentiate itself as a disruptive product line.

Biometrics Research Group, Inc. has estimated that the biorhythm monitoring market will reach US$100 million in sales by 2015. It would not be surprising if Apple attempted to capture some of this market share, along with revenue from the US$60 billion wristwatch industry.

Biometrics Research Group provides forward-looking and systematic data about the global biometric market, allowing industry stakeholders to calculate political, economic and investment risk.

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About Rawlson King

Rawlson O’Neil King is a contributing editor at BiometricUpdate.com and is an experienced communications professional, management consultant, trade journalist and author who recently published a book about control and electronic networks and who has written numerous articles in trade publications and academic journals about smart home and building technologies. Follow him @rawlsonking2.