Sunday, October 10, 2010

Focus-of-vision-based laser pointer

I've had this idea for a while about something that would point a laser at whatever you were looking at. This is mainly an idea for applying to many people in a room and being able to see where people are looking, for example, during a presentation. This wouldn't be a practical purpose, just a study or an experiment. You'd likely see many people wandering their eyes and also many people looking at and reading the words on a presentation screen when the slide changes. I think it would be interesting to try out.

To make it, you could have a camera pointed at the persons eyes or one of their eyes. It would be mounted on a hat or helmet and positioned off to the side, essentially out of their main area of vision. It would track the pupil and calculate in what direction the person was looking. A laser, also attached to the hat, would point in the direction the person is looking. It would be moved by motors.

One of the issues would be trying to get the laser pointing in the exact spot the person is looking at. Because it is mounted off to the side or on top of the head, there would be an offset to the paths of vision and laser. Because of the person's focus and how far away the object is that they're looking at, the laser would not always be accurate. The side-side offset could be solved by mounting on the top of the head, or one could use a distance sensor (ultrasonic, etc) to try and find the distance to the object being looked at. Using a sensor wouldn't completely solve it, but it would help if the person was looking at a large object like their desk or the wall in front of them. The sensor might miss if they were looking at a smaller object like the presenter or a demonstration object.

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