Scientist develops a system that lets you draw and write

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Cameras that detect movement of the eyes on computer screen will help people with diseases limiting communicate.


A French scientist has developed a system for writing and drawing on a screen of your computer using only eye movements, technology that could help people suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the same disease that affects the scientist Stephen Hawkin, or who has the locked-in syndrome, such as Jean-Dominique Bauby, who had his story told in the film Diving Bell and the Butterfly. The study was published online in the journal Current Biology.


“Working with patients suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), who lose their limb movements and the ability to swallow. What they have left is the eye movement,” said Jean Lorenceau, a researcher at the Research Center of the Brain Institute and Spinal Cord, linked to the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) French.

The developed system is a prototype and not yet available for sales. It works like a blank page on the computer screen. With the use of a device already known which records the eye movement via a camera, which allows to write or draw a fluid.

Others have developed similar devices only allow a person to select letters or words on a screen. The apparatus Lorenceau brings greater autonomy for those who missed the movements.

The challenge was to help the eye to make smooth movements, as a static background on the eyeball only produces an irregular succession of jolts. Lorenceau resorted then a trick: the optical illusion “reverse-phi”, discovered by American Stuart Anstis in 1970.

This trick provides “a kind of mobile support” in the eyes to help them make regular movements. It takes two to four training sessions of half an hour to control eye movements and trace letters and figures on the screen.

Besides the obvious opportunities for people with disabilities, this system has other applications professionals (players, riders or dancers), where the accuracy of eye movements is important.

Computers and robotics used in helping people with reduced mobility are increasingly sophisticated. A recently published American experience showed that people could manipulate a quadriplegic robot with the power of thought, thanks to a system of electrodes implanted in the brain.

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