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New computer technology replaces mouse control with facial movements


AM - Saturday, 18 September , 2004  08:24:00

Reporter: Jayne-Maree Sedgman

HAMISH ROBERTSON: Staying with computers, that world was opened up to many people, especially those with disabilities, by the invention of voice recognition technology.

But now a Canadian scientist has gone one step further, with a computer interface which doesn't even need to hear your voice but allows you to navigate your way around the screen simply by moving your face.

Dr Dmitry Gorodnichy from the Institute of Information Technology in Ottawa has been telling our reporter, Jayne-Maree Sedgman, that he's invented a computer which is controlled through eye and nose movements.

DIMITRY GORODNICHY: Nose is a very unique feature all of us have. First, you can see it all the time, so regardless of your face, facial orientation or expression, you can always see where the nose is.

But, even more than that, what is very good for all of us is that the nose has this unique complex shape feature, a complex shape, which no other part of our face has. And because of that it makes possible to track the nose very precisely and also smoothly.

So regardless of how complex is the motion of your face, you can track the people's noses very precisely and very smoothly, which is needed if you need to control. Like, imagine, you need to write your name hands-free with the tip of your nose. Okay, so that's the precision we are looking for, and we can do it now.

JAYNE-MAREE SEDGMAN: So, realistically, how long might it take users to become accustomed to this level of precision?

DMITRY GORODNICHY: Oh, it doesn't take any time, because first it's natural. Imagine that your hands are busy with breakfast and you would like to point me where is a book which I'd like to borrow from you, so how would you do it?

You'd just point probably with the orientation of your face, with your nose, right? So that's what computer can do first, it can just see, okay which way are you pointing at.

But even more than that, you'd now imagine that you'd like actually to write something with the nose. Again, it's very natural, and that's one of the best things about the technology that there is no need to learn it. So you just do it as you would do if your hands are busy.

JAYNE-MAREE SEDGMAN: I understand this invention also utilises the blinking of the users' eyes.

DMITRY GORODNICHY: With the nose we can only move objects, but we cannot, let's say, select, or cannot perform a click. So as a replacement, as a hands-free alternative for a click, we've invented what we call a double-blink concept.

So we ask a person to blink two times or maybe three times in a row. This is a motion which all of us can easily perform, and which can trigger a command on a computer. So that could serve as a hands-free alternative for clicking.

JAYNE-MAREE SEDGMAN: And who do you imagine will use your invention?

DMITRY GORODNICHY: I think it will be everybody, including yourself, myself, and of course there is a specific niche for handicapped industry. In particular, there are many people who cannot talk, and even more some of them cannot even move well their hands, or even face, and for many of them their main means of communication is by blinking.

HAMISH ROBERTSON: That was Dr Dmitry Gorodnichy speaking from Ottawa to our reporter, Jayne-Maree Sedgman.