One of ECE’s capstone clients is Dr. Hennessey, an alumnus of UBC, who began researching and designing eye trackers during his graduate degree with ECE. In 2013, Hennessey founded his current company, Gazepoint, with the grand vision of putting an eye tracker on every desk.
In an interview, Dr. Hennessey described the contribution his capstone team had made to the company: “Eye tracking is a very fast-moving field, and so engaging UBC students was invaluable for us. Working with students allowed us to explore a new application for our product: gaming. Our student team conceptualized and developed a game that uses eye-gaze as an integral game dynamic. We are already able to put their work to use in proof of concept / demonstration presentations.”
Gazepoint challenged students to create a product to showcase their eye tracker technology. The GP3 Eye Tracker allows eye movements to control functions of a computer, much in the same way a mouse does. The students who decided to take on this project (Nick Fischer, John McDonnell, Russell Porter and Marius Malvik) were attracted to the seemingly endless possibilities of what they might be able to achieve with this device. What they came up with was Focalpoint, a 2D platformer puzzle game, that even managed to surprise Dr. Hennessey, “We were pleasantly surprised by how original yet functional the design of the game was.”
The students paid particular attention to the strengths and limitations of eye tracking when they were designing their early prototypes. Dr. Hennessey is confident the company will be able to use and feature the end-product right away – a tangible benefit for Gazepoint.
In the game, each level is a maze broken up into a number of panes and then scrambled. The player controls a little red character, and must navigate by moving their eyes to the correct pane to pass through the maze. The group is looking to bring more life into the game by adding more sound, more levels, and different challenge modes which include speed runs, and panes that are blacked out when you are not directly looking at them. Nicolas hopes that Focalpoint will help bring eye tracker technology to the public.
The group has already sent their prototype to the gaming review site, Toronto Thumbs. John, one of the students in the team, loves how much creative freedom they were given. “In any working environment one’s input can feel so small; with this project, our input was everything.”