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An eye-tracking mask that also measures the wearer’s pulse could be used to study people’s reactions to things they are viewing.
Trisha Andrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and her colleagues developed two fabric-based electrodes, which enable continuous monitoring of the wearer’s eye movements and pulse for up to 8 hours. Because the electrodes are made of fabric, the mask is also washable and reusable.
This could make it useful for health monitoring, particularly of sleep. Eye movement changes are important indicators of sleep phase, such as rapid eye movement (REM) and non REM sleep, says Andrew.
Andrew and her colleagues tested their mask – which they have named Chesma – on three volunteers in an initial study and are now using it for overnight sleep studies, where it is being tested in slightly larger groups of people alongside other sleep monitoring garments that the researchers are developing, including smart pyjamas that can monitor sleep posture and breathing.
“While wrist-based fitness trackers record heart rates, this has the potential to combine measuring heart rates and eye activity in a single wearable device, which can give novel insights into medical conditions that may appear only intermittently in a person,” says Christian Holz at ETH Zürich in Switzerland.
The mask could also be useful for human-computer interactions. “If you are staring at a screen while wearing the mask, (it) can tell which quadrant of the screen your eyes are drawn to or are focusing on,” says Andrew. “Coupled with pulse, that provides insight into awareness and emotional state. This can be useful for e-advertisers,” she says.
In future, this could be extended to allow the wearer to communicate with a computer using their gaze alone, says John Paulin Hansen at the Technical University of Denmark. “Swiping with gaze may open a door without touching it, or change the music track you are listening to,” he says.
“This mask would (also) be particularly well-suited for surgeons in need of an extra hand to control instruments,” says Hansen. But it will be important to test the mask on a larger group of people to account for variation among potential users, he says.
Journal reference: Matter , DOI: 10.1016/j.matt.2020.07.030