Re: [ba-unrev-talk] NYTimes.com Article: A Gaze That Dictates, With Intuitive Software as the Scribe
Dasher is open source, c,c++, tcl, GPL license. Project is found at
At 10:08 AM 9/15/02 -0400, Gary Richmond wrote:
>This article from NYTimes.com
>has been sent to you by firstname.lastname@example.org.
>Dasher--demonstrations and download.
>A Gaze That Dictates, With Intuitive Software as the Scribe
>September 12, 2002
>By ANNE EISENBERG
>PEOPLE who cannot use a keyboard or mouse - quadriplegics
>or those with Lou Gehrig's disease, for instance - often
>use their gaze instead.
>Typically they select characters to type by staring at keys
>pictured on an onscreen keyboard; in many systems, the
>direction of their gaze is then captured by a computer
>equipped with an eye-tracking system.
>Now gamelike software developed by two British physicists
>at the University of Cambridge promises to speed up this
>laborious process, permitting rapid, accurate writing by
>Dr. David J. C. MacKay, a professor at the university's
>Cavendish Laboratory and leader of the research team, said
>that the new software relieves eyes of peering fixedly at
>successive areas on the screen when writing.
>"Eyes did not evolve to push onscreen buttons," he said.
>"That's exhausting." Instead, the software, called Dasher,
>uses a different capability of the eye - its natural knack
>for navigating, for instance, when walking down the street,
>driving a car, or, in the case of Dasher, playing what
>often looks and feels like an onscreen game.
>Although its purpose is serious, the software, which the
>researchers described last month in the journal Nature, is
>reminiscent of many enjoyable computer games. At the start,
>Dasher displays the letters of the alphabet in a column on
>the right side of a colorful screen. As the user's eyes run
>down the column and locate the first desired letter, say
>the "h" to begin "hello," the view on the computer screen
>zooms in so that the area around the "h" grows larger and
>the letter stands out, appearing to float on the screen.
>Then the software predicts the most likely successor to
>join that "h," releasing "a, e, i, o, u" as possible
>candidates for selection. People use their gaze to choose
>the letters they want - or reject those they don't - helped
>by the software, which poses likely options to complete
>"hel" like "hello."
>After an hour's practice, Dasher users could write at up to
>25 words per minute, compared with 15 words per minute for
>users of the onscreen keyboard. Onscreen keyboard users had
>five times the error rate of Dasher users.
>John Paulin Hansen, an associate professor at the IT
>University of Copenhagen who does research on eye-typing
>systems, said that Dasher was a fast, intuitive way of
>typing for people who cannot use their limbs.
>"This work is a breakthrough in terms of typing speed," he
>said. "Twenty-five words is really something."
>The software is free and can be downloaded at
>www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/dasher. The program can be
>controlled with an ordinary mouse; Dasher can be directed
>by a variety of continuous pointing gestures, including
>those made by a mouse or a gaze transduced by an eye
>tracker. In an experiment in which a mouse was used as the
>steering device, Dasher's capability was reported at 34
>words per minute. Because of its versatility, Dasher may
>one day prove useful for writing on miniature computer
>screens, Dr. MacKay said.
>For the test that was reported in Nature, Dr. MacKay and
>his collaborator, David J. Ward, used the text of Jane
>Austen's "Emma," feeding Dasher 90 percent of the novel so
>that the software would be familiar with its style. Then
>people in the experiment took dictation from the remaining
>10 percent of the book. They listened to sentences like
>"One thing only was wanting to make the prospect of the
>ball completely satisfactory to Emma," and reproduced them
>at their computer screens with hands-free writing, using
>their gaze to create the text. The results were compared
>with parallel sessions in which people used an onscreen
>keyboard and eye tracker to take dictation.
>The eye tracker used in the experiment was manufactured by
>EyeTech Digital Systems of Mesa, Ariz. The president of the
>company, Robert Chappell, said he planned to bundle Dasher
>with the gaze-tracking device.
>"Not everybody is going to switch," he said. "Some people
>may prefer to look at a big rectangle on a computer screen
>and choose each letter." But he said he expected that
>Dasher would appeal to many of his customers. "It's like
>driving a car - you steer after the letters and you see
>words form, so you can navigate your way to phrases and
>Dr. Fraser Shein, an engineering professor at the
>University of Toronto who is a creator of an onscreen
>keyboard, said that Dasher had potential. "His approach may
>be more advantageous than pointing to a keyboard with
>fixed-size keys that must be pushed usually by activating a
>physical switch or pausing over a key," he said.
>But Dasher may not be appropriate for users who need a full
>range of writing and editing functions, he said. He also
>had reservations about the display, which he thought might
>tax users. "It requires the eye to view many alternatives
>which are constantly changing," he said.
>Dr. Hansen said he wondered how well the elderly would
>adapt to Dasher and that he planned to devise experiments
>to test that concern. "The floating characters in Dasher
>are a new approach that you have to get used to," he said.
>"We think it is a natural for youngsters, but we'll need
>information to clarify the issue of whether the elderly
>will be comfortable."
>Dr. MacKay has some advice for people learning to use
>Dasher, regardless of their age. "Start by driving slowly,"
>he said, that is, pointing your gaze or mouse in the
>direction you want to go and then heading there at a
>moderate pace. "Start as you would if you were driving a
>lawn mower," he said. "After about 10 minutes, you can
>switch to a Ferrari."