SITIS Archives - Topic Details
Program:  SBIR
Topic Num:  AF071-022 (AirForce)
Title:  Helmet-Mounted G-Tolerant Eye Tracker
Research & Technical Areas:  Human Systems

  Objective:  Develop a helmet-mounted eye tracker, capable of interfacing with Air Force flight equipment, that can be used in a high-G, airborne, fast jet environment.
  Description:  There are several challenges facing the implementation of an eye tracker in a fast jet. First of all, the eye tracker must be light enough so that it does not add too much weight to the pilot’s head. Second, it must not interfere with the pilot’s vision. Thirdly, it must be able to maintain track of the eye while doing aggressive maneuvers that would result in both buffeting as well as substantial G loading. In addition, the tracker should not harm the pilot in case of ejection nor interfere with the ejection process. To address these issues, an eye tracker must be very light (tens of grams), be small in volume (a few cubic inches at most), and be of a form factor that permits secure mounting to the head or a helmet. The eye tracker, or any part of the eye tracker, cannot contact the surface of the eye for any reason. A viable combination of these parameters, suitable to meet Air Force needs has yet to be found. The problem with buffeting is that the shaking can cause most standard commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) head trackers to loose track because they must track reflections from inside the eye and through the pupil. The effect of G loading causes the eyelid to droop and the device itself to slip, which can also cause an eye tracker to loose track of the eye. New, innovative technology that is immune to this effect is needed. One purpose of this eye tracker would be to aid in the aiming of weapons. As such, the eye tracker must be very fast (e.g., have latency of less than 30 ms) and work in conjunction with a head tracker and head-mounted display. Another purpose of an unobtrusive fast eye tracker would be to support an immersive display system with true 20/20 resolution for pilot training simulators based on foveal eye tracking. To meet these needs, technology enabling a small, lightweight, non-contact, head-mounted eye tracker must be found.

  PHASE I: Provide a literature review to determine shortcomings and plan the development of a flight worthy eye tracker. Develop one or more viable designs. Issues include but are not limited to: latency, accuracy, size, weight, and form. Document results (analysis and designs) in a report concluding Phase I.
  PHASE II: Build and demonstrate an eye tracker that is robust enough for laboratory testing and could be used in a fast jet. This tracker would have very fast update rates, be immune to jitter and G, and be accurate, conforming to the performance parameters determined in phase I. It would also be helmet-mounted and as such must be as light as possible and not obstruct the pilot’s field-of-view.

  DUAL USE COMMERCIALIZATION: Military application: Eye trackers will be used in conjunction with head trackers for combat and virtual reality environments. Head and eye tracking will allow us to interact easily with information and weapons. Commercial application: Eye tracking could be used as an interface in the medical industry. Light-weight eye trackers would enable an innovative interface for individuals who cannot use their limbs. Surgeons and quadriplegics could use the device resulting from this effort to interact with information and the world around them. In addition, the marketing industry could use unobtrusive eye trackers to improve their studies of advertisements to determine more easily what about an ad catches an observer’s attention. When small, light-weight eye trackers are combined with state-of-the-art head-mounted displays, they enable an innovative environment for hands-free information interaction.

  References:  1. Barfield, W., Furness, T.A., (eds.) Virtual Environments and Advanced Interface Design, Oxford University Press, New York, 1995.

Keywords:  helmet-mounted display, eye tracker, head tracker, fast jet

Additional Information, Corrections, References, etc:
Ref #1: ISBN: 0195075552 May be obtained through interlibrary loan/document delivery services.
Ref #1: ISBN: 0195075552 May be obtained through interlibrary loan/document delivery services.

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