By Rose Eveleth
Posting in Technology
Most people can't even write in cursive with their hands, but new technology is training those who have lost motor control to write with their eyes.
If you're anything like me, you've completely forgotten how to write in cursive. Some people argue that's a shame, and that cursive is a wonderful, beautiful way of writing. Other people don't see why they should have to smoothly connect each letter as if their quill is going to somehow break if they pick it up too many times. Scientists wonder how they can make people write cursive with their eyes. And this is why scientists are awesome.
Researchers at the University of Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, recently trained patients to write cursive letters and words using only eye movements. While those who have full control of their hands and fingers don't find the smooth strokes of cursive any easier than the staccato pattern of everyday handwriting, people writing with their eyes certainly can't pick up and put down their writing utensil quite as easily. Instead, they train their eyes to carry out smooth, looping movements to write letters.
So, how do they do it. Well, it relies on a few things. First, something like an optical illusion. If you're looking at a screen that is slightly flickering, and you move your eyes across it, there's a strange visual phenomena where it seems like the screen is moving with your eyes. Which means that you can see, in a way, where your eyes are moving. This is important because, as anyone who's tried to write something without looking can attest, seeing what you're doing is very important to successfully writing.
They then trained the patients in about three thirty minute sessions how to keep their eye movements smooth and fluid. The technology to track eye movements has been around for a long time now, and the researchers simply used it to watch what their patients eyes were doing.
Pretty impressive, right?
"One can also imagine that, on the long term, eye movements can routinely be used in man-machine interactions," Jean Lorenceau, the study's main author, said in the press release.
Image: ErinKphoto / Flickr
Jul 26, 2012