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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 of 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
 



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