Eye Tracking In Aircraft Simulators

Eye

Tracking In 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.