Give me a minute – indicating when eye tracker software is in use

The need

It can be difficult to tell when somebody who uses an eye tracker to operate their communications software is communicating. So the temptation is to look over their shoulder. This would annoy me! Fil McIntyre, The Head Technologist at Beaumont College asked if it is possible to create an indicator for when the communications software is in use. This enables a more natural two way conversation. You talk to the AT user and when you see the light flashing, you know that a reply is being prepared.

The solution

I use a BBC micro:bit to do the flashing as they are cheap, cheerful and reliable. I reckon to have two of these qualities.

Using an off the shelf board means that the idea can be implemented by whoever wants to use it. Nothing needs to be made. The Microbit is given to every 11-12 year old in the UK, so wiser folk than me have made it safe to use.

Please find a one minute video showing 'Give me a minute' in action below:

How you can make this

Details on how to implement the system can be found here.

If you want to replicate the idea, you can download the code  from the Github site.

Instructions on how to install the code and set up the system are here.

Having trouble installing the code? Bribe a UK school student to do it for you.

Jess is an eye tracker user who was kind enough to test one of the early versions of 'Give me a minute'. She was so happy with the system that she asked to keep it.

Jess testing 'Give me a minute'
My script makes an image of the communication software screen each second and looks for a difference. I set a minimum threshold for the difference between the images so that moving a mouse cursor will not trigger a change.
Please find a picture of Craig, one of the technologists at Beaumont, testing the first prototype of the 'Give me a minute' system using a Tobii eyetracker and Sensory Software's Grid 2 software. You will have to take my word for it that the Microbit does indeed flash when the Grid 2 is being used.
Craig testing 'Give me a minute' at Beaumont College, Lancaster.

Presentations and articles

This project was presented at the 2018 Communication Matters conference.

I wrote a Circuit Cellar article detailing the hardware and software, which is online here.