New Eye Tracking Techniques Improve Realism of Aircraft Simulators


A simulated flight environment for pilot training may soon be made more
realistic through the use of eye-tracking technology developed by
researchers at the University of Toronto\'s Institute of Biomedical
Engineering (IMBE).

Many safety and cost benefits are obtained by training aircraft pilots
under simulated conditions, but to be effective the simulation must be
convicingly realistic. At present, th e training facilities use large domes
and gimballed projectors, or an array of video screens, to display
computer-generated images. But these installations are very expensive and
image resolution is low. Further, it would take an enormous amount of addi
to improve image quality significantly throughout the whole viewed scene.

However, based on the visual properties of the eye, realism can be
obtained by providing a high-resolution \'area of interest\' insert within a
large, low-resolution field of view. If the image-generating computer
\'knows\' where the pilot\'s fixation is, it mage there.

The technology to make this possible was developed by a research team
headed by Professor Richard Frecker and Professor Moshe Eizenman. The work
was carried out in collaboration with CAE Electronics Ltd. of Montreal with
financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council of Canada.

Their eye-tracker can record and analyze accurately up to 500 eye
positions per second. The system works by means of capturing and processing
the reflections of a low-level beam o f invisible infra-red light shone
onto the eye.

Multi-element arrays capture the image of the eye and digitize the
information, which is then processed in real time by a fast, dedicated
signal processing unit. The difference in position between the ligh tre of
the pupil reveals the instantaneous direction of gaze.

Developments by the IBME team have significantly increased the speed of
signal processing in addition to enhancing accuracy of eye position
estimates. Eizenman believes that "these improvements make our eye-tracker
very effective in monitoring the large G-force environment where the pilot
tends to make larger eye movements because of contraints which exist on
movements of his head".

In a new generation of aircraft simulators, under development by CAE
Electronics Ltd. of Montreal, a head tracker which tells the direction of
the pilot\'s head is mounted on top of the helmet. The eye tracker is
mounted on the front of the helmet, and is ll exactly where the pilot\'s eye
is fixating.

Frecker said that "successful integration of our eye tracker into the
novel helmet-mounted CAE flight simulator would result in a new generation
of simulators that would likely replace the current large domes and
cumbersome video display units."

Initial tests of the integrated system will be carried out in
collaboration with CAE Electronics at Williams Air Force Base in Arizona
later this year.


Contact:
Moshe Eizenman (416)978-5523
Richard Frecker (416)978-2236