Eye-typing technology may become the next input method since it is currently patented by Microsoft. The United States Patent and Trademark Office recently published an interesting patent from the Redmond-based software company, a way of entering text through eye-typing into a computing device. The technology enables control of a virtual keyboard by just gazing at it, and by looking at the various keys, text will go through the computing device without touching it. When realized, this will raise the bar of input methods since the typical way is by use of a physical keyboard, on-screen keyboard, a mouse or a joystick.
The standard ways of eye-typing technology is when a user fixes his gaze on a keyboard’s key for a relatively long period. The system then processes the gaze to determine the letter on a key-by-key basis. This can be strenuous and may cause user fatigue. Thus, the method is altered to process eye-typing with more natural eye movements.
Eye-typing technology will work by collecting multiple gaze samples from an eye-typing initiation. When it is indicated that the user finishes eye-typing, it processes the plurality of gaze samples at one time to form words. This allows the user to fix his gaze one each key for just a relatively short period. Recognition of pattern as well as vague key-matching will be utilized on the gaze samples in order to determine which words are possibly gazed by the user.
Current Swype keyboards allow users swipe keyboard characters with their fingers on the screen. The eye-typing technology should work similar to this. In Microsoft’s case, the patented technology tracks the user’s eye movement with a camera, instead of using fingers.
With Microsoft already patenting it, the eye-typing technology may become the next input method, though a patent is not a total guarantee. This technology is not new. An ALS patient from Israel developed a software with the same functionalities early this year.
Tech solutions which can help people with disabilities are emerging. The like of Web browsers which have computer-generated speech, smart canes and wheelchairs do help make things easier for PWDs to also harness technology and interact with others. It would be great that aside from Web content being “spoken” to them, PWDs can also give input to a device without touching it.
For most people, the eye-typing technology will provide more convenience and a faster way to input information. For the PWDs however, it will perhaps change their lives big time. That is why, powerful solutions like this attract a lot of interests, and whether or not they can benefit those with disabilities is yet to be seen.
While some doubt how the technology will make it to mobile devices, with factors to be considered like accuracy, ease of use and being battery-friendly, the existence of a patent in the hands of an original equipment manufacturer, can be a good start to a delightful surprise for the tech world. Microsoft is supposedly at works with a virtual reality headset, and for its eye-typing technology that may become the next input method, the software firm may even show it sooner than later.
By Judith Aparri
Photo courtesy of Ahmed Sinan – Flickr License