SparkFun / EyeWriter (Assistive Technologies)

If you haven't seen the EyeWriter writeup over at SparkFun, go now and watch it.

The EyeWriter is a project which aims to provide the disabled (particularly patients of ALS, a horrific and lethal disease) with a method of communication and control, even when the disease has ravaged them to the point where motor control of the eye is one of the few that the patient has. It's a horrifying disease and anything that can be done to help patients- "but for the grace of God and all that" it could be any one of us. Bravo on what's been done, an inspiration to do good things.

That being said.. I worked with the mentally and physically handicapped as a teacher and personal care assistant in a group home for a bit over five years, working afternoons and nights to pay for school during the day. My patient base had functional ages from six months to roughly three years, though they were adults ranging from their twenties to late fifties. Virtually all had at least one physical handicap in addition to their primary problem (mental retardation). It's very difficult work physically and mentally... though I think I earned a few points on the "cosmic balance sheet", and I think everyone should do this kind of work, if even for a short time, to learn just how lucky they are.

While I worked there, I ended up building a pictureboard communication system for one patient, which consisted of a series of photos of objects with switches underneath, which then went through a joystick port to a NEC versa laptop running Software Automatic Mouth to speak the words. It worked well for her for many years after I had left that job.

Being disabled myself now, I find my mind drifting back to how good a thing that was. How amazing a thing the above project/device "Eyewriter" is- not to us as geeks, but to us as HUMANS who can give someone back the power to interact and communicate.

Crohns doesn't lend itself to assistive technology (other than a laptop)... not much I can do to help myself. However, we hold in our hand the foundation that could be used to assist others with things that CAN be done.

Just a thought, for all of us. If we have a chance or an idea to do something that can actually HELP someone.. that's beyond cool. That's just plain awesome.

If there's anyone out there working on assistive tech and needs input or help... don't be shy. Who knows, it may be you who needs the help someday!

I've seen pieces of the software and hardware myself in different places and never have thought about using them together like the they did. The sony ps3 eye is a very popular camera among the interactive artists/engineers for making multi-touch screens with a projector, a treated glass, and a few IR leds. Alex P ( wrote the driver and SDK for PC free of charge. I was invested into this technology a while back. Now I'm using the cameras in intro physics labs for motion capture and analysis. These are good cams, 60FPS at 640*480 and 125FPS at 320*240. You can do a lot with them, and they're cheap. I wonder if they used his driver or not. Very cool. Spread technology, help people.

You know, as I goof around with the Rovio, which to me is a cute toy and nothing more, it occurs to me that to someone like a patient with ALS who may not otherwise be mobile might consider even the limited action that the Rovio provides superior to no interaction at all… In that vein, it’s a darn expensive toy if you bought it for the $250+ it sells for, for use as a toy… but if it was providing someone the ability to interact in some with the world again… that’s a cheap purchase at any price.

With a manipulator, it would be awesome. thing’s pretty small and light, it’d have a hard time manipulating much…


I think if the eyewriter folks are really into helping disabled people, with their program, they may be interested working with you on putting this rover in a hospital setup, say keep it in a court yard and use their eyeware to control the rover. It gives back a disabled person some freedom of motion. I wish I had this idea 5 years ago when my dad was disabled by stroke. None of that matters anymore now.