I spent my second year’s training period at the University of Central Lancashire(UCLAN) (UK), working for the research group called Child Computer Interaction (ChiCI).
I was there for 3 months as both an Erasmus student and a trainee. As a trainee, I was asked to develop a tool to analyse keyboard layouts. They already had created different virtual keyboards in Java and wanted me to use a gaze tracking device to analyse the way people are searching for letters in several layouts.
With this in mind, I developed a Qt-based C++ software that would receive data from the gaze tracking device and from keyboard/mouse in order to log this data into csv files. This was already great but we needed something more ergonomical. This is why I added the screenshot mode that would draw the data gathered into a single image. Here is the result:
Well, this is already better. The green line represents where the gaze is, timestamps show some time indications and we can also see events like mouse click directly. But, what if we want to analyse moving content like videos or web pages (scrolling)? Well, to address this problem, I made the video capture mode. This is the only feature that is not portable and that is limited to Windows. In fact, I get snapshots of the screen at a defined rate, draw the data on top of it and save it in a video encoded in divx or mjpeg. Here is the result:
The green line represents the gaze while the blue one is the one from the mouse. Funny isn’t it ? Well, the end of the training period was getting dangerously close, so, I decided to change my application into a server. This way, I was able to remote control it in C/C++, Visual Basic.net, C# and … Java. Using these bindings, I could broadcast data to virtually every program. My first example is what I was ask to do, eg. playing with a virtual keyboard in Java. Here are the results:
My second example is a game I made the night before the presentation of my project. This game uses the gaze to aim at flying super heros.
Of course, the player doesn’t see the green line, he only sees the red dot. In fact, it worked out quite well and I was able to aim at anything quickly but, in this video, the computer had too much things to compute at a time so it became laggy and unresponsive, this is why I miss so much super heros. Just to clarify things, I was using a cheap laptop I had bought 1 year earlier.
That’s what I did in 3 months at the UCLAN and the ChiCI group. I’ll just say it was a wonderful experience both professionally and personally. Being mixed with Erasmus people gave me the will to travel and discover several cultures.