The issue: you’re reading but find yourself zoning out, not absorbing the information, and having to restart, maybe not even knowing where your attention dropped. This loss of focus is exactly what inspired one designer to create a program that can tell if you’re paying attention. Rather than solutions that may or may not solve the issue, like taking notes or finding a quiet place, the program instead utilizes an eye tracker and EEG to track what you are reading and gauge whether or not you are actually paying attention.
Eye trackers work tracking your eye motion and projecting an image onto your screen to approximate where you are looking. The slightly modified version of the tracker for this project keeps track of where you’re looking on the screen and highlights text as you progress. The inclusion of an EEG allows the program to actually sense when you are paying attention. This particular project utilizes a NeuroSky chip found in an old Star Wars toy like those paired with the 2009 Force Trainer game, which can still be purchased for roughly forty to eighty USD. The Tx/Rx pins are labeled on the board within the toy, so it’s easy enough to hook up to an Arduino.
On top of the normal values produced by an EEG, the chip also produces attention and a meditation value. The program simply grabs the “attention” output, a value between one and one hundred. These pieces functioning together serve as a program telling us what we are looking at, where we are in the text, and whether we are zoning out or paying attention. Electrodes are connected to the NeuroSky chip, which connects to the computer via an Arduino. A demonstration can be seen, along with a description of the product, via YouTube. Text that is viewed while you are paying attention is highlighted in green, while anything viewed while zoning out is highlighted in red. Rereading a red section while paying attention can convert the text to green.
The code was created using the Tobii eye tracker’s API and the Arduino Brain Library for the inputs. It converts a PDF into a bitmap, then uses MGCP to highlight the text. The intended use case for this design is for personal studying and academic purposes, but of course, you might think of other ways the handy little piece of hardware and software may be useful in your life.