Eye Writer Glasses Allow Paralyzed Graffiti Artist to Draw Again

The Eye Writer brings communication and art to a paralyzed graffiti artist

Graffiti artist TEMPT is the subject of Mick Ebeling’s TED Talk, The invention that unlocked a locked-in artist. TEMPT is completely paralyzed, able to only use his eyes.

Mick initially met with TEMPT to talk about sponsoring the ALS-afflicted artist, and was surprised that the communication options available for the non super rich were not up to Stephen Hawking levels. TEMPT and his family used an alphabet grid like Hector Salmanaca in Breaking Bad, or Jean-Dominique Bauby in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.


Ebeling promised then and there that TEMPT would be able to communicate again, and that he would be able to once again do some form of art. The communication was the easier part – wrangling with insurance companies for a few years eventually yielded a Stephen Hawking speech device.

He later met up with the folks from GRL – Graffiti Research Lab – and found an optical recognition technology that projected light onto large surfaces and then drew lines or shapes using negative space on the light field. This led Mick to the idea that if TEMPT could move his eyes, then he could control the light and create art.

Next programmers and hackers were moved into Eberling’s house to create the Eye Writer. With a pair of sunglasses from the Venice boardwalk, a PS3 camera, and parts from Home Depot the device was created. The Eye Writer can be built by anyone and the open source software is free to download. Access isn’t limited by insurance companies or hospitals, everyone now has the opportunity to draw and communicate using only their eyes.


The Eye Writer was presented to TEMPT and from his hospital bed he drew light graffiti on the side on a building.


When presenting engineering to first year students one of my mantras is that engineers should make the world a better place. Eberling and his Not Impossible Foundation are developing several inspirational projects that improve the lives of others.