EyeControl uses a head-mounted infrared camera to track eye movements and translate them into spoken words or text.
Approximately 5,600 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) each year, and it is estimated that as many as 30,000 Americans may be living with the disease at any given time. Its onset often involves muscle weakness that progresses to the paralysis of muscles responsible for the control of vital functions such as speech.
With this in mind, two Israeli entrepreneurs have developed a new, low-cost communication device for those suffering from ALS. As its name would imply, EyeControl is a pair of portable glasses that enable patients to communicate with their eyes.
EyeControl uses a head-mounted infrared camera to track eye movement and translate them to spoken words or text. The camera connects to a credit card-sized microprocessor via USB. The tiny computer, which the team calls “Odroid,” converts the wearer’s eye direction into commands that are then communicated through three outputs: headphones, a speaker and/or a smartphone over Bluetooth.
To accurately convey the user’s command, the accompanying mobile app employs a unique algorithm to calibrate the device to best suit one’s needs. The EyeControl system is currently capable of three different tasks: sounding an alert for assistance, sharing pre-defined sentences (programmed with 10 to 15 common sayings) and composing phrases much like SMS messages. At the moment, the wearable can decipher eye movements in two languages: English and Hebrew, with more to come.
“With an earset attached to the device, the patient has always a vocal feedback in order to answer questions being asked or saying he wants to say,” its creators explain. “For example, if one is asked ‘Are you ready for bed?’ and moving your eyes upwards means yes, then the camera will detect where their eyes are looking and transmit the response accordingly.”
While similar devices may be available today, they are typically constrained by their price and require a stationary computer screen to function — two issues that the Tel Aviv startup is hoping to solve with its mobile and affordable solution. With hopes of providing assistance to those afflicted by ALS, EyeControl is now live on Indiegogo and seeking $30,000 to make it all a reality.