MIT researchers develop eye-tracking program for your smartphone

researchers mit georgia eye tracking program app itracker3
Visualhunt
According to a new paper, researchers at the University of Georgia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a piece of software capable of turning almost any smartphone into an eye-tracking device.

Inspired by what MIT graduate student Aditya Khosla calls a “chicken-and-egg loop,” regarding eye-tracking applications for smartphones, researchers teamed up to bring together the information needed to develop such a program. In speaking to MIT News, Khosla said:

“Since few people have the external devices, there’s no big incentive to develop applications for them. Since there are no applications, there’s no incentive for people to buy the devices. We thought we should break this circle and try to make an eye tracker that works on a single mobile device, using just your front-facing camera.”

In order to create such a program, the team of engineers and researchers first needed data, the key ingredient in creating the brain of the program, a machine learning algorithm.

To do this, the researchers sought out strength in numbers with a little crowdsourcing from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program. Previous research in this area was limited to only 50 or so subjects, who were asked to come into a lab to complete the tests.

A collection of the subjects who participated in the data collection stage of development
A collection of the subjects who participated in the data collection stage of development

Khosla and his team far exceeded previous research by sampling the eye movements of 1,500 mobile users, all of whom participated with the help of GazeCapture, a custom iOS application that combined on-screen animations with use of the front-facing camera.

Diagram showing how the data is used to predict eye movement in subjects
Diagram showing how the data is used to predict eye movement in subjects

The data captured from 800 of the 1,500 subjects was used to create iTracker, the first iteration of the eye-tracking system, which had a margin of error of only 1.5 centimeters. Since then, the researchers have analyzed the remaining 700 subjects and further improved the margin of error, shrinking it down to just 1 centimeter.

The team is hopeful that further testing will be able to reduce that even more, down to a margin of error of a half-centimeter, the key number that will make the program commercially viable in the eyes of Khosla.

As for the practical applications for such technology, it can be used for almost anything more conventional eye-tracking methods are used for, from helping doctor’s discover and keep tabs on various illnesses, to market research and analytics. The key difference here is that this new method of tracking is far less invasive and exorbitantly less expensive than alternative options, making it easier than ever to capture larger quantities of data.

Below is the paper in its entirety:

It’ll be interesting to see what the future holds. The team behind it will be presenting the paper on June 28 at the Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition conference in Las Vegas.

Computing

Canada’s winters inspired a startup to warm homes with cryptomining heat waste

Cryptomining may be the key to untold riches and the future of currency, but it’s also an environmental nightmare. Heatmine, thinks it has the answer, but it could mean bolting a mining rig onto every home and business in the country.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be programmed to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Computing

Looking for an Apple MacBook below $900? Woot has you covered

If you're looking for a great deal on an Apple MacBook, then Amazon's Woot may just have what you have been seeking. It has Macbooks available for only $810 with Intel M3 CPUs, 8GB of RAM, and 256GB SSDs.
Mobile

iOS jailbreak app store Cydia shuts down purchasing

For years, iOS users have been jailbreaking their devices to install software not approved by Apple. But now the popular app store alternative Cydia will no longer be accepting purchases.
News

Lawsuit alleges Apple falsely advertised the screen size of the iPhone X

A lawsuit alleges that Apple was dishonest in the way that it marketed the iPhone X. The lawsuit alleges that despite Apple's marketing campaign, the new iPhone is not in fact all screen because of the notch.
Business

Apple is still selling iPhones in China despite being ordered not to

Apple is following the FTC's lead and has sued Qualcomm for a massive $1 billion in the U.S., $145 million in China, and also in the U.K., claiming the company charged onerous royalties for its patented tech.
Mobile

Is somebody watching you? How to stop apps from tracking your location

If you don't like the idea of your every movement being tracked by apps on the phone in your pocket, then you may want to turn location tracking off. We take a look at how to do it on an iPhone or Android phone in this easy guide.
Mobile

Report: Samsung's upcoming foldable phone will cost a hefty $1,800

Samsung has been showcasing bendable display tech for a few years and now a folding smartphone might finally arrive. The Galaxy X, or perhaps the Galaxy F, may be the company's first example. Here's everything we know about it.
Smart Home

Starbucks teams with Uber Eats for delivery from 2,000 of its U.S. stores

Starbucks has teamed up with Uber Eats to offer customers deliveries from almost a quarter of its stores in the U.S. The major expansion launches early next year, making life even easier for fans of the coffee giant.
Mobile

Huawei Nova 4 has a hole in the screen, and a 48-megapixel camera on the back

Huawei has launched the Nova 4, a new smartphone that has abandoned the screen notch and adopted a punch hole alternative, and also has a massive 48-megapixel camera. Here's what you need to know about the Nova 4.
Mobile

Black hole in the screen of Samsung's new Galaxy A8s has a camera inside

Samsung is building exciting, technologically innovative midrange phones, and the latest to be revealed is the new Samsung Galaxy A8s, which may give us an idea of what the new Samsung Galaxy S10 will look like.
Mobile

Score a Christmas deal with Speck’s half-off sale on its entire range of cases

The holidays might be nearing, but bargains don't take time off. To celebrate the last day for U.S. ground shipping, Speck will be offering a sitewide 50-percent-off deal for one day only on Monday December 17.
Mobile

Doubts emerge over when LG will reveal its folding smartphone

LG may be working on a folding smartphone, making it the latest device manufacturer to be linked to the technology, which may become one of the standout designs of the coming year.