TOKYO (AFP) — Don't read to much into someone winking at you in Japan -- a researcher says he has developed a system that will soon let people run their iPods with the flick of an eye.
The system, comprising a single-chip computer and a couple of infrared sensors, monitors movements of the temple and is so tiny that it can be built into the side of a pair of eyeglasses.
Closing both eyes for one second starts an iPod, while blinking again stops the machine. A wink with the right eye makes the machine skip to the next tune while with a wink of the left eye it goes back.
As a person does not have to move either hand, the system can serve as "a third hand" for caregivers, rock-climbers, motorbike drivers and astronauts, as well as people with disabilities.
"You don't have to worry about the system moving incorrectly as the system picks up signals when you close your eyes firmly. You can use this when you're eating or chatting with someone," said the device's developer, Kazuhiro Taniguchi.
The system -- dubbed "Kome Kami Switch," or "Temple Switch" -- can easily differentiate a deliberate one-second wink from natural blinking, said Taniguchi, a researcher at state-run Osaka University's Graduate School of Engineering Science.
"Normally you blink in an energy-saving manner, very quickly and lightly, but you would close your eyes more firmly to operate a device," he told AFP.
"There are some people who are incapable of winking on one eye. For those, we can programme the system to give a command when they blink twice in a fast sequence," he said.
The Kome Kami Switch is also capable of operating television sets, air conditioners, room lighting and other household electronics.
Taniguchi hopes the system can eventually be adapted to run cellphones, wheelchairs and robots as "an ultimate remote control" used in everyday life.
A previous system using blinking to run devices had an obstructive sensor just in front of the user's eye, Taniguchi said.
The research team want to launch a venture in two to three years to commercialise the switch.
The new switch is a variation of a system, which Taniguchi is still working on, that operates when wearers clench their teeth.
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