Smart watches, necklaces and... glasses
We’re all familiar with fitness trackers for your wrist which measure your heart rate, the distance you walk or cycle, the number of steps you take, etc. Or think of those alarms worn by seniors – integrated in a discrete necklace or wristwatch – to automatically notify family members in the event of an emergency (e.g. falling).
Because these clever electronics can be made so small, they can be incorporated into just about anything: a watch, a necklace – and even into the frame of your glasses. Imec and Holst Centre have produced just such a pair of smart glasses with integrated electronics to detect your eye movements.
How do you make glasses like these cheap and yet stylish?
Eye-tracking glasses have been around for a while. In the main they use cameras that are built into the spectacles. These glasses are very accurate, but are rather expensive – plus the cameras tend to be too big to be easily concealed in a standard frame.
Imec and Holst Centre decided to take a different approach. No cameras, but little soft electrodes – five in total – at specific locations around the eyes: above and on the sides of the nose and then above the eyes.
The electrodes measure the difference in electrical voltage between the front and back of the eye. These measurements are then used to calculate eye movement. The advantage of this technology – called electro-oculography – and using electrodes is that you can produce cheaper and more energy-efficient glasses than with cameras. What is also important is that the electrodes and the associated electronic module (for processing and sending signals wirelessly) can be invisibly integrated into the frame of a standard pair of glasses.