Eye Gaze Systems, Cameras and Software

 

Question: What is it you do before you decide to make something move on a computer screen?

Answer: You look at it.

And when you want to move it, you glance at where it’s supposed to go. There is nothing more direct than that.

For anyone overcoming significant physical, cognitive and/or sensory challenges, eye gaze has the potential to deliver access, communication, and learning, with the least amount of skill building and physical/cognitive/sensory load compared to any other access method.

 

Eye Gaze in the Classroom 

 

Eye gaze has evolved from an individual access method to an assessment and educational tool in the classroom. Checkout our resources below to see how eye gaze is is being used in the special needs classroom. 

 

 See Aidan use his eye gaze camera to speak a sentence with AAC software

 

Delve deeper into eye gaze in the classroom with resources, tops, and strategies form the Bridges Blog:

 

 

 Join us for one of our eye gaze webinars

 

Eye gaze in the special needs classroom

 

Eye gaze can be the most direct form of access and communication.

Eye gaze technology is opening up a world of possibilities for students with complex instructional needs due to cognitive, communication, physical, sensory even visual impairments (see below).

In a classroom or resource room, eye gaze systems can offer new opportunities for learning and communication. Educators, therapists and parents have been astonished as to what's possible, how quickly their students could progress.

Not all your students will benefit. Just like not all your students will be switch or touch or mouse users. And not all students who can use eye gaze for an early learning activity will go on to use eye gaze all the time to communicate and learn. But eye gaze is so direct, so intuitive, that it can be a powerful shared access method for many of your students, opening-up profound learning experiences.

Explore the stories, videos and articles below to learn about a whole new world of possibilities for the special needs classroom and high instructional needs student.

See the video below to learn how eye gaze systems are being used to support group instruction for multiple students with complex learning needs. 

 

 

 

Components of an eye gaze system 

 

Successful eye gaze depends on more than just a camera.

Bridges EyeLearn Packages assemble the essential components for successful eye gaze implementation in the classroom based on our, almost, decade of experience with this technology. See it all working together or click on the individual components described below.

 

EyeLearn Desktop Package EyeLearn Rolling Package
 EyeLearn Desktop package                     

 

 


 

1. Mount

Flexible mounting means you can easily move the camera to target different students' eyes. The mount pictured above just swings into place and can be easily adjusted to different positions for different students from reclining wheelchair, to standing.

2. Computer and Monitor 

This can be a laptop, tablet or desktop running full Windows 7 or higher. If you already have a computer, you can attach the camera to that or to an external monitor. New USB monitors have no need for external power -- one cable runs to the computer. But you can use most existing monitors too. To mount securely, monitors need to be VESA wall mount compliant.

3. Software

Software specifically designed for eye gaze and early learning, with ready made activities designed to build skills:

 

 

Other learning software that is ready for eye gaze access:

 

 

 

Customizable software for communication and computer access for writing, texting, web browsing, and all you expect a computer to do.

 

Grid 3 communication and access software

Grid 3

 

4. Eye Gaze Camera

Eye Gaze cameras track the movement of a user’s eye to direct the mouse cursor’s movement. Eye gaze cameras plug into a USB 2.0 or 3.0 port on Windows computers (currently there are no eye gaze cameras for special needs access that will run on iPads, Chromebooks, Android tablets, or Mac PC’s). 

Cameras come with their own software and drivers for calibration, and other settings.

 

Calibration 

 

Calibration with an eye gaze camera

 

Calibration is typically done once for a user and takes just a few seconds. 

Different calibrations for different users can be saved.  So in a classroom, you can have multiple users using the same eye gaze package for different activities.

Factors that can determine an individual calibration include: size and shape of the eye area, glasses, uncontrolled head movement as well as other factors.

As recently as a few years ago, uncontrolled head movements (such as you might see in a student with cerebral palsy), lazy eye or strabismus, or a small eye opening would be severely limiting factors for the potential effectiveness of eye gaze.

Camera technology has improved dramatically even while prices have dropped significantly.  There are no prerequisite skill with eye gaze.  Trying out the technology is the best way to know if it can work for your student.

 

The Click 

 

emulating a mouse "click" with the dwell setting

 

To generate a mouse “click” you use a dwell setting, blink activation or an external switch. By far the most popular option for high instructional needs students is dwell. You look at the target, and the target is activated based on how long the “dwell” is set for.

For students with emerging eye gaze skills or just beginning with eyegaze, the dwell period is usually set very short -- a fraction of a second -- to make it clear the link between looking and triggering an action on the screen.

 

Using dwell to click on a letter on screen

 

For other users an animation, like a wheel or closing circle, pops-up to keep the gaze focused for activation. Dwell of around 2 seconds is common. But an extra half, or tenth of a second either way, can make a big difference for a user's efficiency depending on their preferences.

 

Why eye gaze for early learning? 

 

We try to connect individuals with disabilities -- physical, cognitive, sensory – to computers because they are such powerful and flexible tools. They can speak things out loud, help us make choices, read, write, listen to music, watch movies, play games, communicate over large distances, shop and a lot more.

And like switches, joysticks, touch, keyboards, etc., eye gaze is just another potential access method for those with physical disabilities. However, for many students with profound physical and cognitive needs, eye gaze as an access method is proving to be:

  • Quicker
  • Easier
  • Less fatiguing
  • Less restrictive

than any other alternative access method.

Eyes are the most direct access 

We look into a person’s eyes for recognition, emotion, connection and direction. For most people, even those with profound visual impairments, eyes also indicate direction and intention.

Let’s go back to computer access.

Question: What is it you do before you decide to make something move on a computer screen?

Answer: You look at it.

And when you want to move it, you glance at where it’s supposed to go. There is nothing more direct than that.

Using a switch, or even touch on a tablet, requires motor skills to be trained and developed that are specific to that access method. But for a learner who has to overcome significant physical, cognitive and sensory obstacles to learn and communicate their learning, eye gaze has the potential to deliver access with the least amount of skill building and practice compared to any other access method.

Failed Access = Failed Learning 

Experienced teachers have seen how failure with the access method can lead to frustration and withdrawal from attempts to communicate and learn.

That's why we've seen students who try eye gaze are engaging in amazing new ways - the cognitive load is taken off the access method and applied to the learning and communicating. 

We ultimately want our students to focus their attention on the learning content of the activity and be able to communicate and participate -- not for the focus to be on the means of access. Practice so far shows a relatively short learning curve for many students introduced to eye gaze, particularly when compared to students mastering good switch access skills.

That is why, in special needs classrooms with eye gaze, we’re hearing things like "I had no idea what was going on in his head!” and "I’m going to re-write her IEP, tonight. I have to.”

Quote: "I had no idea what was going on in his head. With the eye gaze, I could see it"

 

Elements of Eye Gaze

Communicating with eye gaze is not a tiered process. Instead, each element supports the others in an ongoing cycle of development, inclusion, and learning.

 

eye gaze wheel - cycle of development, inclusion, and learning

An individual can have physical issues with their eyes and still experience success even if:

  • they wear glasses
  • they wear contact lenses
  • have one functional eye

 

Bridges Recommends

For early eye gaze users, use one calibration setting for everyone. With big images and targets, one general setting can be used for most students, making the technology easy to use for several students in a classroom.

You can always calibrate for students who are having more difficulty or for instances where activities need finer targeting.

 

Vision assessment for the Non-Verbal 

Picture a non-verbal student with an IEP that says "blind" or "visually impaired."

But what does that mean? How much can the student see? How to best take advantage of the remaining site? Even medical information like "optic nerve atrophy or "cortical VI" doesn't let you know what the student actually sees.

This is a problem that teachers, care-givers and therapists, often confront.

We know that the vast majority of individuals who are classified as "blind" have a significant amount of usable sight. We need to take full advantage of all senses and any vision for successful alternative and augmentative communication.

 

Quote - there is a relationship between what we look at and what we are thinking

 

But eye exams for most people is a trial and error process where the client communicates to the practitioner what option is best. How can we know what sort of vision we're dealing with, without feedback and cues from the individual?

So someone with a communication disability and visual impairment runs into a chicken/ egg type conundrum:

  • How do we develop alternative augmentative communication (AAC) without aiding vision?
  • How do we aid vision without effective AAC?

 

Eye Gaze Analysis - See what the client sees 

Eye gaze analysis software shows you what the student can follow with their eyes. You can try different options, like changing contrast, position of objects within their field of view. The heatmap or track map of where the subject's eyes went during an activity communicates what the client sees without the client having to describe anything.

 

Eye gaze analytics - heat maps

The heat maps in Figure 1 suggest that the student may have vision trouble in the top right quadrant.

 

Eye Gaze Analysis tool - Line Trace Recordings

Figure 2: Line Trace recordings demonstrate where a student looked on the screen and how much they moved their eyes around the screen. Useful when observing searching behaviours.

 

Eye Gaze Analysis tool - heat map

Eye Gaze Analysis tool - heat map

Figure 3: Heat maps are particularly useful in quickly showing eye movement patterns (e.g. smooth pursuit in tracking activities) and can show at a glance where a student’s focus of attention is.

 

Eye gaze can help gain insight into the visual and cognitive processing of our students.

We can observe:

  • how our students respond to different stimuli and prompts;
  • the physical location of where the student can best see objects and text (left side, right side, horizontal, vertical, etc.)
  • what attracts their attention on screen and motivates them to participate;
  • movement patterns that may point to preferences and understanding.

This can dramatically change what you can do with the student, and how you approach teaching, learning, and communication.

As one teacher told us with the eye gaze camera and gaze analysis tools, "I finally understood what the student saw. I realized I had to change the layout of the communication boards, and where I positioned them so he could actually see the messages… I had to completely rewrite his IEP!”

 

Measure early vision and cognition behaviours with Insight

 

Insight performance scores dashboard

Insight is a groundbreaking intelligent learning and assessment tool that objectively measures early vision and cognition behaviours using eye gaze technology.

Featuring engaging, small step progressive teaching activities, Insight uses eye gaze to assess vision and cognition behaviours of students with even the most complex learning needs:

  • Eye gaze gets to the core of abilities using the most intuitive form of reaction and expression – Insight channels this
  • Insight will work with any eye tracker that emulates mouse cursor movement on the screen 
  • Regardless of calibration quality or the eye gaze device used, Insight can still measure skills and provide assessment results

Why Insight

With some students with complex and profound physical cognitive and communication needs – teachers just don’t know where to begin.

Students with a combination of:

Physical disabilities – lack of motor control that makes it very difficult to accurately or consistently touch a screen or hit a switch.

Communication challenges – a lack of expressive communication so even the most dedicated communication partners can’t accurately determine what the student wants, needs and  what their challenges are.

Sensory impairments – without clear communication, even extremely knowledgeable clinicians can’t be certain what the student can see or hear, and how to improve these sensory experiences.

Combining these issues together, it is very difficult for an education team to know where they can begin. What skills are there that can be built on? Eye gaze is the most direct form of expression and reaction and can offer a whole new way for our most challenging students to connect with their world.

With Insight’s eye-gaze powered, engaging activities and unique analytics, educators and clinicians can capture and build-on reactive and expressive vision and cognition behaviours. 

 

Insight assessment analytics

 

Insight is the first ever intelligent learning system to offer objective measurement of the core skills essential for early learning. The result is an unparalleled level of understanding of a student that can reveal previously hidden potentials.

But Insight isn’t just about analysis and understanding. Insight’s simple and engaging computer activities build on each other in incremental steps. So, with Insight, our most challenging students can build skills and make real strides in developing expressive communication.

 

Learn more about Insight HERE 

 

Bridges EyeLearn  Classroom Packages - Eye gaze, readymade for the classroom

 

Bridges EyeLearn Packages

 

Bridges EyeLearn Packages give you everything you need to turn a Windows Computer into a classroom eye gaze system.

Simple and quick to setup

Flexible enough to switch with different needs

A range of ready activities to build access and early learning skills

Open new insight into student abilities, potentials and challenges through assessment tools

Use with other eye gaze ready software, like Clicker 6, ChooseIt! Maker 3, the Grid, and Look to Learn

 

Our EyeLearn systems are ideal for a classroom supporting a wide variety of students with profound and complex learning needs as a result of rett syndrome, cerebral palsy, ASD and other physical, cognitive and sensory challenges. Packages include software and hardware for learning and teaching with eye gaze.

 

EyeLearn Desktop Package

 

Camera

Included in both packages is the Irisbond Duo eye tracker camera; lightweight, reliable, designed and maximized for the classroom setting with larger targets, easy calibration, and flexible range of users.

Designed specifically for entry level users, Irisbond Duo enables users of any level of technical ability to get up and running with eye gaze, with minimal setup. Look at the screen and you are ready to attend, engage, explore, play, choose, and learn! 

It’s licensed for an unlimited number of devices and users allowing you to swap connection from a standard desktop PC to a more mobile solution such as a laptop or tablet at any time.

 

The Irisbond Duo eye tracker camera comes with both the Rolling and Desktop Packages

 

 

Articulated Arm 

Both systems also come with a sturdy, flexible articulated arm for mounting the monitor with the eye gaze camera. It offers an extremely wide range of positioning options without having to loosen or lock anything. With just fingertip control, the arm dips down low enough for a student in a wheelchair or a bean bag or swings high up for someone standing or using a walker. Assemble with the included Allen key (or hex key) in minutes. The EyeLearn tilts up, down, sideways or back, for almost any head position. The arm can be mounted to a desktop (pictured below) or rolling mount (see the EyeLearn Rolling Package).

 

One-person, one-handed easy positioning and repositioning  Pivoting and rotating head to get to individual student gaze, regardless of head tilt No tools required for adjustments

 

Software

Both Rolling and Desktop EyeLearn Packages include the Inclusive Eye Gaze Learning Curve software bundle. This bundle Includes 3 eye gaze titles designed to take students through a progression of skill building activities. Built-in analytical tools allow staff to monitor students’ progress and gain new insights.

 

Inclusive's Eye Gaze Learning Curve software bundle is included in both EyeLearn Rolling and Desktop packages.

 

Attention and Looking 

A unique package of 18 carefully graded activities designed to assess and teach attention and looking skills, simple access skills and understanding of eye gaze.

These fun and meaningful activities can be used with all children on their first steps with eye gaze. They provide a progression of skills from experiential and cause and effect to targeting, and include customisable activities to cater for specific interests and motivations. Powerful but simple to use analysis and record keeping tools help you to assess initial skills and keep accurate records of progress.

This title builds early eye gaze skills: 

  • Tracking - what are you looking at? 
  • Fixating - are you looking? 
  • Locating - looking around

 

This title builds early eye gaze skills - tracking, fixating, and locating

 

Choosing and Learning 

The Choosing and Learning package is designed to prepare eye gaze users for further communication and learning activities by developing choice making and access skills.

Add your own pictures and sounds to extend the 18 activities to your specific communication and curriculum needs.

This title supports growth of choice making skills: 

  • Preferred choices
  • Linear choices
  • Multiple choices

 

Exploring and Playing 

18 fun packed games and exploring opportunities that users can play on their own and with friends. Assess and improve your targeting and access skills and progress from cause and effect to early choice making. This title builds on choice making and turn taking skills:

  • Turn taking
  • Exploring
  • Choosing anything 

 

Downloadable Resources 

Eye Gaze Systems, Cameras and Software

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