Ergoneers keeps a close eye on ergonomics

  • 04-Apr-2013 02:31 EDT
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Weighing just 69 g (2.4 oz), the Dikablis eye-tracking head unit is the lightest one of its kind, claims Ergoneers.

Engineers consider many factors when deciding on the location of driver controls in the cockpit. Ergoneers wants to be part of the equation.

At the SAE 2013 World Congress in Detroit April 16-18, Ergoneers (booth 1138) will demonstrate its eye-tracking system, called Dikablis. It consists of a head-mounted eye tracker device that, together with the company’s proprietary D-Lab software, helps engineers measure, analyze, and optimize human-machine interactions for ergonomic design and other purposes.

Ergoneers says its eye-tracking system was designed specially for the automotive industry, although the company sells the product into additional markets. Dikablis already is in wide use by automotive OEMs and suppliers, according to Anne Storm, President of Ergoneers of North America. She said Audi is the largest automotive OEM customer. The parent company is headquartered in Germany.

The head unit is made of titanium and weighs only 69 g (2.4 oz). Mounted on the frame are two cameras—one focuses on the user’s eye and the other focuses on what the user is looking at. The unit can be hardwired to a recording computer, or it can be equipped to connect wirelessly; customers can choose between two wireless offerings, one of greater data-transmission capability than the other.

The hardwired version, called Dikablis Cable, offers connection length (from the user to the operator’s recording laptop) of 50 m (160 ft). Dikablis Wireless, the more popular of the two wireless systems, allows the operator to monitor what a subject is seeing and doing up to 500 m (1600 ft) away. Dikablis Wireless Plus offers more powerful wireless data transmission—at a distance of 2-10 km (1.2-6.2 mi).

The latter system “is most often used on large test or race tracks where a driver’s gaze and other behaviors are monitored from a remote control station to the side of the track,” said Storm, adding that wireless systems are also useful for setups in which one car is following another.

In addition to the three standard versions, Dikablis can be customized for different applications with different field-camera lenses, recording laptop specifications, etc. “For example,” Storm said, “we offer ‘Mobility Packages’ which make our cable system mobile; have custom-built a binocular eye-tracking system which tracks both eyes at the same time; and can integrate our eye-tracker into almost any type of Head Mounted Display (HMD), helmut, or other headgear with our hardware development kit.”

The eye camera is an adjustable, high-resolution infrared camera that captures the subject’s eye. A high-resolution video camera, also adjustable, is used to capture the field scene (a changeable lens allows different viewing angles for different applications, from 45° to 120°), which is the environment as seen by the subject. The wiring to the cameras is housed within the frame of the head unit. The two cameras simultaneously transmit video to the recording laptop. Calibration, pupil detection, video monitoring, recording, and analysis are all performed with the D-Lab software, using field and eye-cam videos from the head unit; the videos may be viewed either individually or in “blending” mode with one image superimposed over the other.

Storm said Ergoneers’ eye tracking system has great accuracy because the eye camera is positioned closer to the subject than most competitors’ offerings. The head units are assembled by Ergoneers.

“Our eye-tracking system is accurate to within one-half degree in most experiments and will vary slightly depending on the distance of objects in the environment and the precision of calibration,” Storm said. “Since we have a calibration wizard in our software, even new users are able to calibrate subjects quickly and accurately.”

With the D-Lab software component, gaze and glance performance of human subjects can be measured according to ISO EN 15007 standards: “Road Vehicles—Measurement of Driver Visual Behavior with Respect to Transport Information and Control Systems.” D-Lab also allows for gaze behavior to be measured synchronously with a wide range of other data streams (simulator, physiological measurements, etc.)

D-Lab also automatically analyzes and displays data once recording is complete. Numerical data can then be exported to Excel or MatLab, for example, for further analysis. “This helps researchers make recommendations to management based on objective measures,” Storm said. Data can be presented in different formats including heat map and bar graph.

In addition to the collection of data for later analysis, Ergoneers’ system has a valuable real-time element. “Many users of our product want to trigger an event or a response in either a simulated or actual environment based on where a subject is looking, what he is doing, or what a car or machine is doing in real time. This ability makes our product on the extreme cutting edge,” she said.

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