The need for budget eye-tracking solutions
For many years, the situation on the market of technologically sophisticated eyetracking devices is
not in favor of the final user. The cost of a nurse or a specialized assistant, which will help the
paralyzed patient to communicate with the outside world, is high enough, but keeping him in a
specialized clinic or purchase an eyetracking system for home use will be many times more
expensive. Everyone cannot afford this, and combined with a costly course of treatment and
rehabilitation, it becomes even less affordable. As a result, patients are forced to suffer without
communication, which introduces additional negative aspects to the disease due to frequent stress
and forced isolation.
The situation is complicated by the fact that in most of the devices there is no possibility to change
the language used in text managing and typing, which creates a number of additional problems and
for many makes the imported eye trackers impossible to use. In addition, problems may arise with
the delivery and warranty repairs in case of any, even minor defects, as almost all of the major
service centers are located exclusively in European cities and states. When importing devices from
abroad, because of differences in state standards, eye trackers of leading Western manufacturers can
be incompatible with intelligent control systems of home equipment.
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In addition, given the cost of most eyetracking systems, it is simply economically irrational for
manufacturers to organize service centers and sales points far from the major financial centers
because the individual orders there will not be able to recoup even a portion of the funds spent on
the construction and advertising. All this leads to the situation wherein regions with no advanced
medical centers, insurance companies are not able to pay for the long (and often lifelong) treatment
of the patients in case of paralysis, and the income level in these places does not allow people to buy
expensive equipment, so the costly eyetracking systems are simply not delivered there.
But this is not even the main problem. Most patients do not need a rich feature set; they do not need
their eye trackers to manage home appliances and computer programs. They do not need additional
modules for human speech synthesis, a large arsenal of options, and complex schemes of device
calibration. They need only one the ability to communicate.
After all, when you think of how modern computing power grows, and even a budget laptop is able
to quickly and easily handle large amounts of information, including digitizing and analysis of data
from an external camera. In this case you just need a video recording device and a program that
shows the patient the matrix of letters on a monitor, as when working with an assistant. There is no
need for costly multifunctional eye trackers. The device will be compact and mobile, able to work
for some time on internal battery, and will be 10 times cheaper and more practical than its Western
It is hoped that a hitherto vacant niche of budget firmware sets of eyetracking systems in most
countries will soon be completed, and the paralyzed and remaining motionless patients will be able
to communicate with other people. After all, who else but they know the true value of each word?
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Perhaps the only way out of this situation is the development of inexpensive eyetracking systems.
Many cannot afford expensive equipment, and the services of a qualified assistant are also far from
cheap. Moreover, the human factor should be taken into account: When working with the board of
characters, the assistant, in most cases, gets tired faster than the patient.
Inexpensive but sufficiently effective eyetracking systems can be created with a Notebook and a
webcam. By analyzing the cost of the above factors, it is possible to assess the strengths and
weaknesses of such a system:
The use of precision gear. The accuracy of a webcam is several times lower (compared to
some of the professional devices 10 times) than the devices used in eye tracking; the
frequency of shooting is also much lower. But to function with large characters, the accuracy
is not an essential factor. The system based on a Notebook is designed to be used exclusively
with the letter matrix and does not support the mouse pointer. For this reason small
variations in positioning are tolerated.
Software development. Basic eye trackers do not require the development of a software set,
as they will not support the mouse pointer or any external applications. Modules for speech
synthesis will not apply either. Using a simple program will ensure simplicity and ease of
interface with high reliability.
Essential functionalities. The sum of the capacities of Notebook combined with other
additional software. Of course, the capabilities of a Notebook will not be available to
patients with limited motor functions who can only use the letter matrix. But this will already
allow them to communicate, by typing the text character by character such a simplified
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Brand, hardware support, and warranty costs. The simpler the software or hardware is, the
higher its reliability and durability. Moreover, in the case of any serious damage to the
equipment, like a laptop or webcam, it can always be effortlessly replaced. While repairing a
professional eyetracking device, its sensitive camera, the radiator, or the videoprocessing
block can result in significant difficulties and should be fixed only by a professional service
But, of course, the decisive factor in the improvement of this kit is its extremely low cost.
Importantly, the system is a light, mobile, and doesn't require much to work.
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Eyetracking budget systems are unlikely to ever compete with the hightech and multifunction
products. But this is not their objective; they will have a consumer niche. Their main and only use
would be to offer totally paralyzed individuals
with a safe and inexpensive method for
communication. And they completely succeed in this job.
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Solution from EyeComTec
A group of developers fromEyeComTec (subdivision ofLAZgroup SA creating software to help
people who suffer from paralysis or considerably impaired mobility. Our mission is to develop
efficient and affordable technologies that will allow people to communicate with patients
exclusively through eye movement.
Why the emphasis on affordability? Having analyzed the market of computer devices for paralyzed
people, we came to an upsetting conclusion: the majority of the devices and software are too
expensive for the patients and their families to purchase. Of course, the big companies annually
spend great amounts of money on improving the quality of their products, but regardless, the prices
are still too high. This is also due to the fact that the whole market is divided amongst a few big
We consider these factors as a challenge to our own skills and knowledge. We are sure that the
devices for paralyzed people should not be so expensive, and we are planning to create working
models of the system based on notebooks with a builtin video camera (which costs less than $500).
In case of noncommercial use, the software will be free of charge. As of now, we have created
working algorithms and prototypes of the programs; in the near future, they will be documented and
published on our site for free access.
We understand very well that the developers should at least recover their expenses for the new
technologies but, with this move, we would like to show that sometimes making profits is not the
most important, especially when dealing with people who have a very hard life and who we can
help. The programs available on the market are not ideal but we are trying to develop a suitable and
affordable product for those who really need it. Besides, if this creates competition in the field of
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computer technologies, if other companies create products which are more effective and less costly
than the current ones, then we would consider that an unequivocal success.
As our site develops we will also be gathering information about other technologies that are useful
to paralyzed people — a description of devices and software systems, people's experience with using
them, and users comments. The more information we can gather, the easier it will be for the users of
our site to make the right choice and the right purchase. The main thing is not to forget that quality
is not always measured by price.
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LAZgroup - Business and Technology Solutions.
“LAZgroup S.A.” is software research and development company located in the city Geneva of Switzerland.
Our purpose is research, development and exploitation of various modules, algorithms, libraries and
software solutions in the field of computer security, artificial intelligence and alternative user interfaces;
and all other activities in the field of IT..
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