Researchers have developed ways to operate computers simply with the eyes and mind. This technology could be a miracle for patients with Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries, or amputees, among others.

One research team developed a pair of glasses that can track eye movements in order to control a computer – and the technology will cost less than £40, or under $63. The GT3D device allows users to use their eyes just as they would a cursor. The technology is made up primarily of two fast video game console cameras attached to eyeglasses. The cameras take constant pictures of the eye, allowing researchers to view precisely where the eye is looking.

In trials, researchers asked six participants to operate the game Pong, a game that requires people to move a paddle back and forth to hit a ball on the screen. Such a task would be difficult for other mechanisms that attempt to read brain waves, like EEGs. The participants, who had never before used their eyes as a control mechanism, were able to use the device within 20 percent of the ability of their able-bodied peers within 10 minutes.

The device uses just one watt of power, and can be connected through WiFi or USB to any Windows or Linux computer. Participants also were able to browse the web and compose emails. Previous attempts at similar technology required participants to stare at an object for a while without blinking, even though blinking is simply human nature. The results of the trial have been published in the Journal of Neural Engineering.

Meanwhile, theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is testing a computer that will allow him to communicate by reading his mind. Hawking, who has motor neurone disease, currently communicates through use of a computer that he operates with his cheek. However, Hawking is currently losing control of his cheek and will soon require communication through other means. The computer will monitor his brain activity to convert it into speech. The technology, developed by Stanford University’s Stephen Low and his team, was presented to the Francis Crick Memorial Conference last week.