London, May 6 : Looks can surely kill, at least for gamers using this novel interface, which allows them to play the 3D game 'World of Warcraft' and slay the monsters, with just a gaze.
Currently scientists are developing the technology that may enable people with severe motor disabilities to play 3D computer games like World of Warcraft using only their eyes.
Gaze technology has proved beneficial since a long time for people with conditions like motor neurone disease (MND), cerebral palsy and other "locked-in syndromes" to control 2D desktop environments and communicate using visual keyboards.
The lead researcher on the project, Stephen Vickers, of De Montfort University, Leicester, UK said that this technology requires the users to guide a cursor with their eyes and for the mouse click all one has to do is to stare at objects for a time.
"Even though a user in, say, Second Life might look as if they are able-bodied, if they can't operate and communicate as fast as everyone else, they could be perceived as having a disability," New Scientist quoted him, as saying.
He also added that the technology also deals with a privacy issue for those players who do not want to reveal their disability in the virtual world, where gamers are required to perform a number of commands. This includes moving their character or avatar, altering their viewpoint on the scene, manipulating objects and communicating with other players.
The software, which is being developed as part of the EU-funded project Communication by Gaze Interaction (COGAIN), works by throwing infrared light from LEDs at the bottom of a computer monitor and track a person's eye movements using stereo infrared cameras. And this way it is calculated where exactly on screen the user is looking with an accuracy of about 5 mm.
Although, the software does have the traditional point and click interface, but it also includes extra functions to speed up certain commands, like if one glances for a moment off-screen in a particular direction, it may rotate the avatar or viewpoint. This may also mean calling up transparent icons dragged onto game objects to perform a particular action.
There is also an in built "gaze gesture" that can temporarily turn off the eye-gaze functions completely and avert selecting an item unintentionally when one looks around the screen.
"The eyes are perceptual organs, not designed for pointing and selecting. You can't turn them off, like you can lift your hand off the mouse," explained Vickers.
Within the next year, Vickers is hoping to begin trials of the software with people with locked-in syndrome.
A paper on the new system was presented at the Eye Tracking Research and Applications Symposium 2008 in Savannah, US.