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Measuring Drivers’ Brain and Eye Activity Could Lead to Fewer Accidents

Latest advances in capturing data on brain activity and eye movement are being combined develop a system that can detect when drivers are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. The technique combines high-speed eye tracking that records eye movements in unprecedented detail using cutting-edge infra-red cameras; and high-density electroencephalograph (EEG) technology that measures electrical brain activity with millisecond precision through electrodes placed on the scalp.

This could be the first step towards a system that combines brain and eye monitoring to automatically alert drivers who are showing signs of drowsiness. The system would be built into the vehicle and connected unobtrusively to the driver, with the EEG looking out for brain signals that only occur in the early stages of sleepiness. The eye tracker would reinforce this by looking for erratic gaze patterns symptomatic of someone starting to feel drowsy and different from those characteristic of someone driving who is constantly looking out for hazards.

Computer games of the future could dispense with the need for the player to physically interact with any type of console, mouse or other hand-operated system. Instead, eye movement and brain activity data would be collected and processed to indicate what action the player wants to take. By distinguishing the tiny differences in various types of brain activity, the EEG would identify the precise action the player desires (e.g. run, jump or throw), while the eye movement data would show exactly where on the screen the player was looking when they had this thought.

People who have no arm functionality could move their wheelchairs simply through their eye movements. These movements could be tracked and the corresponding brain activity analyzed to identify when these indicate a desire to move in a certain direction. This would then automatically activate a steering and propulsion mechanism that would drive the wheelchair to that place.

The breakthrough could also provide the basis for improved tests to diagnose dyslexia and other reading disorders. The new technique could enable the person being tested to move their eyes and read longer passages of text in a natural way, making the tests much more realistic and revealing.

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