Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology in Ilmenau, Germany have created a system for warning drivers when they’re getting too drowsy to drive. The Eyetracker system utilizes two or more dashboard-mounted cameras to monitor drivers’ eyes, and sounds an alarm if their eyes are off the road for too long. It can apparently be mounted in any car, and doesn’t require complicated calibration of the cameras, or an external computer.

“With conventional systems, every person whose line of vision is to be monitored has to complete more or less time-consuming preparations. Because every head, every face, every pair of eyes is different,” said Fraunhofer’s Prof. Peter Husar. “What we have developed is a small modular system with its own hardware and programs on board, so that the line of vision is computed directly within the camera itself. Since the Eyetracker is fitted with at least two cameras that record images stereoscopically – meaning in three dimensions – the system can easily identify the spatial position of the pupil and the line of vision.”

Using two, four, or even six cameras, the system evaluates up to 200 images per second, and follows the driver’s eyes even when they turn their head. Despite the appearance of the system in the supplied photo, the commercial version of Eyetracker is said to be about half the size of a matchbox, with camera lenses that are just three to four millimeters in diameter.

Besides its use in automobiles, designers of the system believe it could also be used to track patients’ eyes during eye surgery, to change perspectives in video games without the use of joysticks, and to let advertisers know what parts of posters viewers are looking at most. Visitors to Stuttgart’s VISION trade fair can see the system for themselves from November 9th to 11th.

Lexus has also developed an Driver Monitoring System which uses cameras to track drivers’ eyes and sounds an alarm if drivers are looking away from the road as they are approaching an obstacle.