Eye-tracking tech lets you control a drone by looking where you want it to move

There are all manner of weird and wonderful control systems being invented to help drone pilots guide their unmanned aerial vehicles through the skies. One that sounds pretty intuitive, though, is laid out in a new piece of research from engineers at New York University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory. They have invented a method to allow drone pilots to fly using a pair of eye-tracking glasses. What could be simpler?

“This solution provides the opportunity to create new, non-invasive forms of interactions between a human and robots allowing the human to send new 3D-navigation waypoints to the robot in an uninstrumented environment,” Dr. Giuseppe Loianno, assistant professor at New York University and Director of the Agile Robotics and Perception Lab, told Digital Trends. “The user can control the drone just pointing at a spatial location using his gaze, which is distinct from the head orientation in our case.”

The method is both easy to use and self-contained. In terms of hardware, it requires the drone (obviously!), a small computational unit and a pair of Tobii Pro Glasses 2. These gaze-tracking glasses boast an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and a built-in HD camera. Using some smart deep neural network technology and head orientation data from the IMU, the glasses are able to detect where the user is looking and how far away the drone is.

fly drone eye tracking glasses mzeznzexna
New York University

The researchers’ hope is that such technology could be used to aid people with little drone-flying experience to safely fly them without the need for an expert pilot.

“The proposed solution opens up new ways to interpret human attention and create new anticipative human-robot interfaces,” Loianno continued. “We aim to create new ways of interaction between agents. Specifically, we are interested to develop a multi-modal interaction setup — [featuring] visual, vocal [and gesture-based interactions] — and add multiple agents in the framework. We would also [like to] investigate the benefits that the proposed solution can provide to people affected by body or ocular diseases.”

A paper describing the work, titled “Human Gaze-Driven Spatial Tasking of an Autonomous MAV,” was recently submitted to the 2019 International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which will take place in May 2019. Make sure you keep your eyes trained in that direction!

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Intel wants its fleet of drones to monitor America’s aging, unsafe bridges

Intel has signed a deal to use its Falcon 8+ drones to carry out bridge inspections. The hope is that these drones will be useful in spotting potential problems before they become serious.
Emerging Tech

Full-fledged drone delivery service set to land in remote Canadian community

Some drone delivery operations seem rather crude in their execution, but Drone Delivery Canada is building a comprehensive platform that's aiming to take drone delivery to the next level.
Emerging Tech

The 20 best tech toys for kids will make you wish you were 10 again

Looking for the perfect toy or gadget for your child? Thankfully, we've rounded up some of our personal favorite tech toys, including microscopes, computer kits, and a spherical droid from a galaxy far, far away.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and other that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Scoot your commute! Here are the 9 best electric scooters on the market

Electric scooters are an affordable, convenient way to minimize your carbon footprint and zip around town. Check out 8 of our current favorites, whether you're working with a budget or have some cash to spare.
Features

Has Columbus, Ohio raised its IQ yet? A progress report from the mayor

Two years ago, the city of Columbus in Ohio received $40 million to pursue smart city initiatives. So, what’s happened since then? We spoke with its mayor, Andrew Ginther, to discuss progress and what’s ahead.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Hear the sounds of wind on Mars from InSight’s latest audio recording

NASA's InSight craft has captured the sound of the wind blowing on the surface of Mars. The audio file was picked up by the air pressure sensor and the seismometer which detected vibrations from the 10 to 15 mph winds in the area.
Emerging Tech

New experiment casts doubt on claims to have identified dark matter

A South Korean experiment called COSINE-100 has attempted to replicate the claims of dark matter observed by the Italian DAMA/LIBRA experiment, but has failed to replicate the observations.
Emerging Tech

White dwarf star unexpectedly emitting bright ‘supersoft’ X-rays

NASA's Chandra Observatory has discovered a white dwarf star which is emitting supersoft X-rays, calling into question the conventional wisdom about how X-rays are produced by dying stars.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Emerging Tech

In 2018, e-scooters reshaped the urban landscape

Within just a year, electric scooters have fundamentally changed how we navigate cities. From San Francisco to Paris, commuters have a new option that’s more fun than mass transit, easier than a bike, and definitely not a car.
Emerging Tech

Transplanted pig hearts show promise in baboon trials. Are humans next?

Researchers in Germany have successfully transplanted modified pig hearts into baboons. The results take us one step closer to ending organ transplant waiting lists for good. Here's why.