Wouldn’t it be great to be able to control a computer simply by looking at it? With just a flick of an eye you could use the internet, play games, or run your own business. Add an artificial voice, and you could even talk, maybe for the first time in your life.
The technology that makes this a possibility isn’t new. It’s been around for over twenty years and it’s already an established tool for marketing companies to track where you’re looking on websites or TV ads.
But what makes it exciting is its potential to open up communication, independence, self-esteem and quality of life for people who can’t use a computer effectively in any other way. People with locked-in syndrome, motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, for example.
Thankfully there are now a number of companies who specialise in providing eye-gaze systems specifically for people with severe physical disabilities. There’s also a growing choice of eye-gaze-specific software that let’s you do just about anything from opening your curtains to completing a doctoral thesis. And, of course, playing a huge number of computer games.
The reality, and our part in it
Headline-grabbing stuff, and rightly so. But everyone’s needs are different, and making eye-gaze work, especially in cases of complex physical disability, is rarely simple. You might as well use the technology as a doorstop (and a very expensive doorstop at that) if you’re just too severely disabled to use it straight out of the box. Or if your family, friends, and carers aren’t trained to get the best out of it.
We’ve been working with eye-gaze and complex disability since 2007; modifying, training, advising and adapting the technology to suit individual needs. Where appropriate we can advise on integrating additional equipment like footswitches or voice control that can make the crucial difference between success and failure. We can recommend suitable computer games, and in some cases even create customised versions.
Our founder, Dr Mick Donegan, is an acknowledged world leader in the development and application of eye-gaze technology, and he’s been advising eye-gaze system manufacturers for over 15 years. He has a huge amount of experience bridging the gap between the potential and the practical use of the technology.
With such expertise to draw on, we're capable of doing whatever we possibly can to make eye-gaze successful, and we do it without charge.
How does it work?
Helen can put together spoken messages just by looking at words and letters on the screen of her eye-gaze computer. The system uses a small infrared camera that tracks the movement of her eyes and converts it into mouse movement. She ’selects’ the letter or word that she wants by fixing her gaze on it for a short period of time, and an artificial voice then ‘speaks’ her messages.
But she doesn't just use the system for speech. She can play games with her brother using her eyes. Take a look at the video clip below to find out more.