ITU GazeGroup

Research on eye tracking and gaze interaction

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PhD Defense: Off-the-Shelf Gaze Interaction

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Javier San Agustin will defend his PhD thesis on "Off-the-Shelf Gaze Interaction" at the IT University of Copenhagen on the 8th of January from 13.00 to (at most) 17.00. The program for the event consists of a one hour presentation which is followed by a discussion with the committee, formed by Andrew Duchowski, Bjarne Kjær Ersbøll, and Arne John Glenstrup. Whereby a traditional reception with snacks and drinks will be held.

Abstract of the thesis:


People with severe motor-skill disabilities are often unable to use standard input devices such as a mouse or a keyboard to control a computer and they are, therefore, in strong need for alternative input devices. Gaze tracking offers them the possibility to use the movements of their eyes to interact with a computer, thereby making them more independent. A big effort has been put toward improving the robustness and accuracy of the technology, and many commercial systems are nowadays available in the market.

Despite the great improvements that gaze tracking systems have undergone in the last years, high prices have prevented gaze interaction from becoming mainstream. The use of specialized hardware, such as industrial cameras or infrared light sources, increases the accuracy of the systems, but also the price, which prevents many potential users from having access to the technology. Furthermore, the different components are often required to be placed in specific locations, or are built into the monitor, thus decreasing the flexibility of the setup.

Gaze tracking systems built from low-cost and off-the-shelf components have the potential to facilitate access to the technology and bring the prices down. Such systems are often more flexible, as the components can be placed in different locations, but also less robust, due to the lack of control over the hardware setup and the lower quality of the components compared to commercial systems.

The work developed for this thesis deals with some of the challenges introduced by the use of low-cost and off-the-shelf components for gaze interaction. The main contributions are:
  • Development and performance evaluation of the ITU Gaze Tracker, an off-the-shelf gaze tracker that uses an inexpensive webcam or video camera to track the user's eye. The software is readily available as open source, offering the possibility to try out gaze interaction for a low price and to analyze, improve and extend the software by modifying the source code.
  • A novel gaze estimation method based on homographic mappings between planes. No knowledge about the hardware configuration is required, allowing for a flexible setup where camera and light sources can be placed at any location.
  • A novel algorithm to detect the type of movement that the eye is performing, i.e. fixation, saccade or smooth pursuit. The algorithm is based on eye velocity and movement pattern, and allows to smooth the signal appropriately for each kind of movement to remove jitter due to noise while maximizing responsiveness.