New Device Allows Locked-In Patients to Communicate

Israeli company is crowdfunding EyeControl, a communication device for ALS patients.

600,000 ALS patients around the world will reach a condition that Itai Kornberg calls ‘locked-in’ – the body is immobile but the brain and head are still functioning. He also estimates that 600,000 more people that are not suffering from ALS will reach ‘locked-in’ status – from car accidents, strokes or other muscular dystrophy diseases. For most of these patients the last organ that remains active and controllable is the eye.

Kornberg along with his team at EyeControl are running an indiegogo campaign to fund their EyeControl unit as a mobile means of communication for locked in patients. Most patients can communicate with their computers but not when moving around, and current mobile communication devices are prohibitively expensive. The EyeControl unit is meant to be cheap, mobile, accessible and calibrate automatically.

A plastic glasses frame holds an infrared camera and is currently hardwired to a controller. Eye movements in the x and y directions and blinks turn into commands that result in sound through earphones and a speaker.

The app for EyeControl runs from a smartphone and has three communication modes. The alert sound calls for assistance if the patient is in danger or needs immediate help. Predefined sentences can express a need like pain, discomfort or hunger. Sentences can be composed using a keyboard configuration.

EyeControl is an awesome idea and the indiegogo page says that the code is the way that the team has removed most of the cost from the unit vs current solutions. The campaign is already halfway to their $30,000 goal that will be used to refine the algorithms and transfer the app across more platforms. The device will be especially useful to the 70% of locked-in patients who live in developing countries and will benefit from a low cost solution.