craft Simulators A simulated flight environment for pilot training may soon be made morerealistic through the use of eye-tracking technology developed byresearchers at the University of Toronto’s Institute of BiomedicalEngineering (IMBE). Many safety and cost benefits are obtained by training aircraft pilotsunder simulated conditions, but to be effective the simulation must beconvicingly realistic. At present, th e training facilities use large domesand gimballed projectors, or an array of video screens, to displaycomputer-generated images. But these installations are very expensive andimage resolution is low.
Further, it would take an enormous amount of addito improve image quality significantly throughout the whole viewed scene. However, based on the visual properties of the eye, realism can beobtained by providing a high-resolution ‘area of interest’ insert within alarge, 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 teamheaded by Professor Richard Frecker and Professor Moshe Eizenman. The workwas carried out in collaboration with CAE Electronics Ltd. of Montreal withfinancial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering ResearchCouncil of Canada. Their eye-tracker can record and analyze accurately up to 500 eyepositions per second.
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The system works by means of capturing and processingthe reflections of a low-level beam o f invisible infra-red light shoneonto the eye. Multi-element arrays capture the image of the eye and digitize theinformation, which is then processed in real time by a fast, dedicatedsignal processing unit. The difference in position between the ligh tre ofthe pupil reveals the instantaneous direction of gaze.
Developments by the IBME team have significantly increased the speed ofsignal processing in addition to enhancing accuracy of eye positionestimates. Eizenman believes that “these improvements make our eye-trackervery effective in monitoring the large G-force environment where the pilottends to make larger eye movements because of contraints which exist onmovements of his head”. In a new generation of aircraft simulators, under development by CAEElectronics Ltd.
of Montreal, a head tracker which tells the direction ofthe pilot’s head is mounted on top of the helmet. The eye tracker ismounted on the front of the helmet, and is ll exactly where the pilot’s eyeis fixating. Frecker said that “successful integration of our eye tracker into thenovel helmet-mounted CAE flight simulator would result in a new generationof simulators that would likely replace the current large domes andcumbersome video display units.” Initial tests of the integrated system will be carried out incollaboration with CAE Electronics at Williams Air Force Base in Arizonalater this year.Contact:Moshe Eizenman (416)978-5523Richard Frecker (416)978-2236