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23 Apr 2014

Browbeating the opposition

Eyebrow-controlled gaming. It could catch on, you know. A questioning glance could flick a ball into the back of a FIFA net, an arching stare would slip a mine under an enemy tank, or a look of astonishment could pull a car round a bend at Le Mans. 

This is all about our good friend Alex, who mentioned to us that another couple of switches in his tech setup could push his gaming to another level.

Alex has spinal muscular atrophy. He can’t hold a controller or use a keyboard, so he games using a combination of voice commands, eye control and a hand movement switch - a setup that we worked out for him a few years ago.

Finding another couple of body movements that he could use to trigger the switches reliably was going to be a challenge, so we tried a couple of things. First up, a sip/puff switch. I like it, says Alex, but I need to be able to speak my voice commands clearly. Ah, we say, what about head-mounted impulse switches? They send out tiny electrical pings that are generated by a muscle twitch. Awesome, he says after giving them a go, but sometimes I kind of need to hold a button down for a while. 

So in steps Gill, occupational therapist extraordinaire, with some nifty lever switches that can be triggered by moving your eyebrows up and down. And by George, they worked!

They had to be VERY carefully positioned and safely mounted, but Alex is a natural. He can flip his eyebrows quickly and independently, and within ten minutes of using the switches in Minecraft, he’s clicking one to jump and then, while in the air, using the other to place a block under his feet. Neat.

He already plays FIFA in mouse mode using his eye gaze system and voice controls, but with the new switches for pass and shoot, he scored within a couple of minutes. 

Nice eyebrow skills, Alex! Roger Moore and Spock would be impressed.