You wake up after an accident. You can’t move anything except your eyes and you can’t speak. That’s when our StarGaze project can help.
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to control a computer simply by looking at it? With just a glance you could use the internet, play games, or run your own business. Add an artificial voice, and you could even let the computer talk for you.
This is eye-gaze technology, and for thousands of people each year who suffer a sudden injury or illness that leaves them completely paralysed except for their eyes, it’s a potential lifeline. Our StarGaze project provides the introduction, support and loan of eye-gaze technology when it matters most, right after an accident or illness. It’s a powerful face-to-face service that has the potential to open the door initially for emergency communication, but can lead to independence in education, work and leisure.
If you’re a friend, family member or professional involved with someone who’s suffered a sudden injury or illness, and you think that eye-gaze technology might be able to help, get in touch. We particularly welcome calls from staff at Intensive Care and Rehabilitation Units.Get in touch
How does eye-gaze work?
Eye-gaze systems have an inbuilt infrared camera which tracks where your eyes are looking, letting you move the mouse pointer around on the screen. You can 'click' by blinking, dwelling (staring at the screen for a certain length of time) or by using a switch that’s plugged in to the computer.
For people who have difficulty speaking, words and letters on the screen (usually in a grid) can be chosen and ‘spoken’ using an artificial voice. Phrases and sentences can be put together before being ‘spoken’, or stored for later use. Depending on the system there’s a wide variety of artificial voices available in several languages and accents.
Eye-gaze isn’t new. For many years it’s been used by marketing companies to track where you’re looking on websites or TV ads, but now there are several eye-gaze systems designed specifically for people with severe physical disabilities. There’s also a growing choice of eye-gaze-specific software that potentially lets you do just about anything from opening your curtains to completing a doctoral thesis. And, of course, playing video games.
“When I regained consciousness I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak — all I could do was move my eyes. It’s impossible to explain the fear, desperation and helplessness you feel when you’re totally unable to communicate.”
Matt Hampson, ex-England Under-21 rugby player, suffered a major spinal injury when a scrum collapsed on him in 2005 during training. It’s Matt who’s been the inspiration behind StarGaze, and it's thanks to his vision and the support of his Foundation that the project has helped so many people so far.
In 2007 we were delighted and humbled when Matt agreed to be the Patron of SpecialEffect.Matt Hampson Foundation
Making eye-gaze work effectively, especially in cases of complex physical disability, relies on intensive face-to-face support and an in-depth knowledge of the different systems that are available. It’s this attention to detail that makes our StarGaze service so effective.
We’ve been working with eye-gaze and complex disability since 2007; modifying, training, advising and adapting the technology to suit individual needs. Our founder, Dr Mick Donegan, is an acknowledged world leader in the development and application of eye-gaze technology, and has extensive experience in bridging the gap between the potential and the practical use of the technology.
With such expertise to draw on, our teams are capable of doing whatever we possibly can to make eye-gaze successful, and we’ll do it without charge.More about SpecialEffect
Like all our services, there’s no charge for any of the support we give through StarGaze. It lets us help people as quickly and effectively as possible, and for as long as possible.
It also means that we’re totally reliant on your support for this exceptionally time and cost-intensive service. The cost of each eye-gaze system that we use and loan through StarGaze can run into many thousands of pounds, and during 2014-15 the service cost nearly £160k in total to run.
But the benefits can be, and are, truly life-changing. “(It) gave my mum the ability to do what she did before her illness disabled her. Having the capability of using social media, reading a book, using Skype independently made living… more bearable. When every minute of your life means so much, filling it with enjoyable things becomes vital.” - Sharon, daughter of a mother helped through the project.Please donate