Some of us have a wake up reflex when we're starting to fall asleep while driving, but that reflex, as refined as it may be in some, doesn't always save lives. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT in Ilmenau, Germany have devised a system that sits on the dashboard, follows movements of the driver's eyes, and issues a warning when it detects that the driver is about to nod off.
Eyetracker driver safety device: © Franhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology IDMT
Though the Eyetracker is being demonstrated in the above image on a PC, the system does not require one to run, as the images are computed by and stored in the camera software. The tiny cameras, only half the size of a matchbox, are mounted behind the sun visor and in the dashboard, so they are non-intrusive. But, they are powerful enough to collect and evaluate up to 200 3D images per second to identify the driver's line of vision.
The Eyetracker is easily installed into any car model, hooked up to the
car's trip computer and, once it captures your eye movement patterns, it
will sound an alarm should your eyes be closed for more than a few split seconds. Just imagine the sounds it will
emit while you're texting!
In addition to its use as a driver's safety device, the Eyetracker has other applications as well. For example, the device can measure eye movements during eye surgery. Advertisers can use the Eyetracker technology to determine the length of time spent on various parts of an advertising poster. And computer gamers may be able to see different perspectives without the use of a joystick.
Hopefully, this technology will be available soon to all of us, for it is estimated by the German Road Safety Council that one in four fatalities is due to driver drowsiness.
Fraunhofer via Pop Sci