Gaze Control – Yet Another Exciting Patent By Apple

Apple is known for its hassle free designs and user-friendly UIs. With the patent granted by the U.S. Patent And Trademark Office on Tuesday (20th January), Apple once again has caught a lot of interest from technologists and Apple fans all around the world. The post describes Apple’s new patent as “Systems and methods for counteracting a perpetual fading of a moveable indicator” which deals with Troxler’s fading effect.
Troxler’s fading effect is a problem related to eye-tracking and gaze-based GUI systems. Troxler’s effect is a phenomenon which affects the visual perception of unmoving stimuli and objects in one’s peripheral vision. In short, a phenomenon which can cause onscreen objects, which are stationary, to look like they are disappearing. Check this link to experiment. This explained, such gaze-capturing systems would need good accuracy in detecting even a minor shift of user’s gaze and then reflect those changes on the screen with a quick response.
Apple’s patent describes a medley of software and hardware solutions to counter the Troxler’s fading effect. One of the methods describe the employment of eye-tracking hardware and then relaying the data to the screen accordingly. To prevent the perceived cursor fade, Apple suggests a system that predicts the fading by detecting time lapse between the eye movements and blinking. As per some predefined thresholds, measurements in time of the eye movements are then calculated. This enables the system to counteract the fade before it is realized.
Another method suggested in the patent granted is the use of infrared sensors for detection of eye links by the user and moving the cursor in that short span. To determine the eye blink, the system is said to compare different images of the user and in turn detecting the pupil. Finally, the patents illustrates a method with which the device measures user’s distance from the display device and the viewing angle. All these methods help in positioning of the on-screen movable indicator/cursor. This feature runs only when it detects the user being about to experience the fade.
This patent may be speculated to be put in use with Apple iPhones, i-Pads, Mac, etc. But if coupled with voice-controlled features, this visual-controlling system would be a hit in Apple TVs. Also this might become the next big thing for gaming controls. Similar to other patents of Apple having a very slight possibilities to actually be deployed in its devices, future of this new gaze-capturing system cannot be determined.

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