By Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo

March 04,

DON'T read too much into it if someone winks at you in Japan – a researcher 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 Mr Taniguchi, a researcher at state-run Osaka University's Graduate School of Engineering Science.

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photo: iPod ... a prototype of Kazuhiro Taniguchi's winking-detector mounted to earphones / AFP