Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain. Regarded as the world’s most renowned physicist, Professor Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with ALS almost six decades ago – the average lifespan of ALS patients is five years – has dedicated his life to finding a cure for this debilitating disease.
Although ALS patients can have fully functional cognitive abilities, this still-fatal neurological disease causes them to be "locked-in" to their own bodies. This renders them unable to speak or use their limbs. Sadly, many of the existing communication devices that can assist ALS patients are grossly expensive. These communication devices also limit the patients’ communication abilities as they incorporate a computer screen so communicating when they are in transit (in a wheelchair or a car) or in bed is not possible.
EyeControl, a patent-pending screen-free device, provides an affordable, accessible and automatically calibrated mobile means of communication for ALS patients.
How it works
An infrared camera that is connected to a standard spectacle frame communicates with a credit-card sized computer. The computer identifies the blinks and movements of the user’s eyes and translates it into commands that will kick-out a sound output to a speaker or earphones. What’s more is that it can transmit these sounds to a Smartphone via Bluetooth technology. The Smartphone-based application enables the patient to communicate on a text-to-speech platform. The patient can select from predefined sentences including, “I’m cold”, “I need to go to the bathroom” or “My hand hurts”. For safety, an alert is enabled to allow the ALS user to call for assistance. A virtual board is also available. It resembles the alphabet and allows the user to compose sentences.
Recently, IsrALS invested seed money to develop the EyeControl product even further.
“ALS patients need an affordable communication device,” said IsrALS founder Avichai Kremer, who suffers from ALS himself, “I communicate today via a computer with the help of head movements. I mainly use e-mail and Skype. A product like EyeControl will give me more freedom. I will be able to leave the house and communicate with friends and family. Today, ALS patients are locked in, a healthy mind in a paralyzed body. We need to change that,” he said, via his computer.
EyeControl has been working tirelessly for 12 months in the hopes of securing sufficient funds to develop a head-mounted device for the camera, add more features for the mobile app as well as improve the eye-tracking algorithm for a more fluid translation. EyeControl is currently crowdfunding for their device on Indiegogo.