Samsung has unveiled a new version of its so-called EyeCan+ eye mouse, a device that enables people with disabilities to use computers through eye movements.
Eye-controlled computers have been around for a while. Especially targeted to those with disabilities who can't use a keyboard or mouse, they often are dedicated devices or technologies that require users to wear glasses or other special equipment. In a blog post Tuesday, the company called the Eyecan+ the first of its kind because it doesn't require people to wear any such equipment. The EyeCan+ is a simple portable box positioned below your monitor.
Users first need to calibrate their eyes with the box. But that process only needs to be done once as the EyeCan+ records and remembers the correct calibration. Users can work with the device either sitting or lying down and just need to be a couple of feet from the monitor.
The device's interface shows up on the monitor as a pop-up menu with 18 different commands, such as "copy," "paste," "select all," "drag and drop," "scroll" and "zoom in." To execute a specific command, the user just needs to look at its icon and blink once. The EyeCan+ can also be programmed with custom commands. For example, a keystroke such as Ctrl+P can be created to print a file.
Samsung isn't selling the EyeCan+directly. Rather, the company said it will soon release the technology as open-source so that others can bring it to the marketplace. However, because the device is geared toward disabled people, Samsung will produce a limited number to donate to certain charities.
Samsung unveiled its first EyeCan in March 2012. But the second-generation edition improves on its predecessor with more accurate calibration and a better user experience, the company said. Samsung owes much of that improvement to Hyung-Jin Shin, a graduate student in computer science at Yonsei University in Seoul. A quadriplegic, Shin teamed up with Samsung engineers and worked with the EyeCan+ over a period of several months to ensure that the device would be easy to use.
"Though EyeCan may seem like a simple device, we are hopeful it can help improve the quality of life for those suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and Locked-in syndrome (LIS)," the EyeCan team said on its project page. "We really enjoyed making the EyeCan, and since this is an open-source platform, we hope that more and more people will jump in to improve the device. EyeCan is currently not for sale. The EyeCan project team is providing only the technology. Our hope is that this technology can spread to reach people in need."