GazeSpeak, an app that intelligently recognises and interprets eye signals and registers them as letters. Sound like something out of a science fiction movie to you too? Microsoft has launched a new application they call ‘GazeSpeak’. The app aims to help people with ALS or other motor impairments by enabling them to communicate with others using their smartphone.
Sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease some people may have heard of the disease thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge trend. ALS or motor neurone disease is a condition which deteriorates muscles and damages nerve cells and it can affect a person’s ability to speak.
This new application utilizes the smartphones camera and recognises the users eye movements and then intelligently converts the inputs into letters and sentences.
The app aims to be a low cost model to aid people as current eye track input systems can be expensive, as one might expect. GazeSpeak however, is robust under sunlight and would not require frequent calibration from the user unlike other more expensive solutions.
“Our system can interpret eye gestures in real time, decode these gestures into predicted utterances, and facilitate communication, with different user interfaces for speakers and interpreters” Microsoft state.
The solution seems fairly simple to operate. The user places a sticker on the back of the device. The ‘sticker’ has four grids, each with grouped letters located in a certain direction. You’ll then need a helping hand to get someone to operate the phone, as if they were taking a picture of you. The user then looks at letters in one of four directions – up, down, left, right essentially spelling a word with their eyes and the app will register which of the groups/letters they have looked at.
“We created an eye gesture communication system that runs on a smartphone, and is designed to be low-cost, robust, portable, and easy-to-learn, with a higher communication bandwidth than an e-tran board”.
The application is due to be presented on a larger scale at the Conference in Human Factors in Computing Systems in May of this year and subsequently released afterwards.
For anyone with ALS it can difficult to communicate and often the case for people suffering, they can only communicate with their eyes. This application aims to ease that obstacle and make communication more accessible and fluent, something I’m sure most of us take for granted.
Microsoft has created a fantastic and potentially life changing application and has stated that the application will be free to use. Bravo Microsoft.