Interview with Alan Kielar of iScan
January 2012, As result of the recent rise in advanced imaging and motion control with head and eye movement for the gaming and generalized computer use, we contacted the Co-Founder of iScan Corporation of Cambridge MA to get an update on the industry and their products. For those that are unfamiliar with iScan, they have been in the eye tracking for headsets and computer positions since the mid 1980's. The announcement of several 2-5 yr old companies at CES that they were “early founders” of the eye tracking technology, without their knowledge of a well known and decades old industry leader is what prompted the interview with iScan.
Focusing on the military and medical space, they have develop vision systems that not only generate computerized views of where you are looking, but they can determine your correct Point-Of-View (POV) which is the point of focus of the users eyes. Their solution uses head mounted imagers to capture the eye position and their advanced algorithms are able to compensate for issues as changing lighting conditions, having eye glasses, change in pupil size, drooping of eyelids, and momentary eye movements.
In the discussion, Mr. Kielar opined that while the consumer electronics community is enamored with the idea of eye based control. The major challenges are finding a good use model for it and also making the technology both reliable and inexpensive. For good quality results, a great deal of data processing is still required which comes down to a tradeoff of response time, compute resources, accuracy and cost of materials and power for providing the resources.
At this time, systems are at VGA resolution and are looking to move to HD resolutions. The higher resolution increase the processing efforts and to correctly capture the video data to determine the POV a custom 3 channel DVR is employed.
These high processing costs to determine the vergence point of a dual eye system will keep the technology out the consumer marketplace for the short term future. Accuracy, repeatability and ease of use by the operator are all items that are needed to drive the application development efforts for eye tracking at the consumer level.
A lot of the consumer companies have tackled the challenge of user facing cameras that can see the eye position. With this in place, rudimentary left, right, up and down relative movements are straight forward to track, but absolute focus point, which is key to functional eye tracking, is still in the industrial/medical/miliary cost space.