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COGAIN FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is COGAIN?

COGAIN started as a european Network of Excellence on COmmunication by GAze INteraction. It is a network which joins people who share a common goal. The members in the network are researchers, eye tracker developers and people who work directly with users with disabilities in user centers and hospitals. We share a common goal: to do research, develop the technology and spread information about eye gaze control and communication. We want people to know that they can use their eyes to communicate and control a computer.

The COGAIN project started in September 2004 as an IST network of excellence supported by the European Commission's IST 6th framework program. The funded project ended in August 2009. However, COGAIN continues its work in the form of an association.

Read more:

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2. How can I join to become a member of COGAIN?

The best way to become a member of COGAIN is to join the COGAIN Association. More information is available at the web pages of the COGAIN Association.

It is no longer possible to join as a funded partner because the project is near its end (last funded year). The COGAIN Association will continue even after the funding from the European Commission ends. For individuals, the best way is to join the COGAIN Association. Companies and user centres may also consider joining one of the COGAIN advisory boards: Board of Industrial Advisors (BIA) or Board of User Communities (BUC).

The best place to meet COGAIN members and learn more about the work COGAIN does, is to participate the annual COGAIN Conference

3. Where can I buy a COGAIN tracker?

There is no such thing as a COGAIN tracker. COGAIN is network (see above "What is COGAIN") that consist of people who share a common goal. COGAIN is not a system or a software, and COGAIN does not sell anything.

However, some of the members in the network are manufacturers who do sell their own trackers, for a list of eye control systems available for people with disabilities, see the catalogue of eye control systems targeted at people with disabilities

Members of COGAIN have also developed various applications that can be controlled by eye movements, for more information see COGAIN Applications.

4. What does "eye control", "gaze communication", "gaze interaction" mean?

Eye/gaze communication means that a person is using his or her eyes to communicate. All sighted people use eyes in their everyday communication. They look at a person they talk to or look at an object they interact with (e.g. look at a pencil before picking it up). Thus, eyes can be used to point at items. People who lack the control of muscle movement may still be able to move their eyes. In that case, eyes may well be their only means of communication. They interact and communicate by using their gaze.

Eyes can also be used to control a computer (thus "eye control" or "gaze control"). An eye tracking device tracks the persons eye movement and determines where on screen their gaze is targeted. Such "eye mouse" can then be used to control the mouse pointer on-screen (instead of hand mouse or head mouse). If the person is able to blink (wink) or press a separate button/switch, sip/puff or make a sound (voice command), then the target pointed by the "eye mouse" can be selected by using a separate switch. However, many people are not able to press a separate switch or cannot even blink, or such activity is very tiring for them. In such a case the selection of the pointed target can be done with a "dwell time", which means the user keeps the gaze on the target for a certain duration of time (e.g. 1-2 seconds), thus "dwelling on it" to select the item. More information about using the eye to emulate mouse and mouse button clicks is available in the COGAIN Report D3.2: 2.3.5.

Eye tracking vs. Eye movement or eye-blink switches:
Eye-tracking is different from the eye-blink based system so that eye-tracking usually measures the direction of the user's gaze. With an eye-tracking based system, the user can directly point at the item by looking at it. Using an eye-blink switch system (without eye-tracking), the eye blink is used as a switch to select the item under focus. Usually the focus is moved from item to item using "scanning". In other words, the focused item is not selected by direct pointing (as with eye mouse) but the focus is moved from one item to another either automatically (automatic scanning) or by using a switch (user moves the focus from item to item). The user selects the focused item by eye blink (or wink). More information about scanning can be found in the COGAIN_Report_D3.2#
Eye blinks can also be used alone, for example, one blink could mean 'yes' and two blinks 'no'.

Please note that pointing by gaze is not as accurate as pointing with a conventional hand-mouse. More information about eye control, its potential and problems involved is available in the COGAIN reports and multimedia training resource at User Involvement web pages

5. My child/relative has this disability, can eye control help?

For some people, eye control is a necessity and the only option, for example, people who are totally paralyzed and who can only control their eye movements. For other people, eye control can be an option that is faster and less tiring than the other options such as switches. The COGAIN Report on User Requirements (D3.1) gives an overview of who can benefit from eye control, and also who may not currently benefit from it (partly because of limitations in the technology), see User requirements report with observations of difficulties users are experiencing.

See also the "Who can benefit and how" part of the COGAIN multimedia training resource on Eye Control Hints and Tips.

6. Which tracker is best for me/my child/my relative?

There are several different eye control systems available for purchase, for a list, see the Catalogue of eye control systems.

When considering which system to get, it is always recommended to consult an expert to make an assessment and to carefully trial which tracker is the best for each individual. The needs of individual end-users differ a lot and so do the systems and their properties. There are certain key issues one may consider when trialling an eye control systems, for more information see the COGAIN D3.2 Report on features of the different systems and development needs

See also the parts on "Planning and carrying out an eye-control assessment" and related parts (ergonomic issues, available software, etc.) of the COGAIN multimedia training resource on Eye Control Hints and Tips.

7. The systems are too expensive, are there any cheaper budget options or alternatives to eye control?

The prices of the eye control systems vary depending on the tracker and its features, so it may be worth the while to ask for the price of several systems. Please note though that not all systems are suitable for everybody, so do not purchase any tracker before trying it out carefully!

This technology is still fairly new. We expect the prices to go down as it becomes more common. There are also "low-cost" and "open source" systems being developed but none of them are yet stable and easy-to-use enough to be used by people with disabilities.

For people who have some control over muscle movement, there are potential alternative controlling methods available, for more information, see the COGAIN Report D3.1, Chapter 5: [potential alternatives to eye control are there?]

See also:

As a "first aid", you can use a manual eye communication board (also called "gaze communication frame"). It is a board with letters (or pictures) on it. One person (able-bodied) holds the board in front of the disabled person. The disabled person then looks at one of the letters (or pictures) on the board and the other person (who is holding the board) speaks out the letter to confirm that she interpreted the gaze direction correctly. Then the disabled person looks at the next letter and again the conversation partner speaks out that letter. This way a person can act as a human eye tracker who interprets the gaze direction. For more information, see Eye Gaze Communication Board.

8. I want to build my own eye tracker, can you help?

There are some good starting points (open source software and research reports) on the COGAIN web page on Open source and low cost eye tracking.

You may also want to have a look at the COGAIN WP5 "Eye tracker development" workpackage's reports, D5.2, D5.3, D5.3, D5.4, D5.5, see COGAIN Reports

Did not find the answer to your questions? Please email your question to info@cogain.org, or fill a web form to express your interest.