Gaze interaction and cerebral palsy

How much can you tell from gazing into someone's eyes? Everything, if the viewer is the camera on an eye-gaze technology device. For those with mobility issues associated with cerebral palsy, eyes can talk, type, surf the internet, and even control the TV, house lights, and lawn sprinkler.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that begins before, during and shortly after birth. Damage to certain areas of the brain causes mild to severe impairment of muscle control. Walking, talking, and holding things may be impossible.

Eye tracking technology is a way for those with CP to control a communication device or an adapted computer with just their eyes. It allows them to speak, read, write, and interact with the world around them. With eye-gaze technology, users operate a computer by directing the cursor with their eyes: Look at a screen icon, linger, blink, and you've just told the computer or device what to do.

Who can be helped by eye-gaze technology?

Those who have trouble using a computer or communication aid with standard methods or other accommodation approaches may find an eye-gaze system valuable.

A candidate for the technology will work with an evaluation team, usually composed of family members, doctors, and teachers, and that may also include speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, physiotherapists, or social workers.

They'll be looking for a few essentials, including:

  • The ability to focus steadily on one spot
  • Vision sharp enough to see the computer screen clearly
  • The ability to stay in position in front of the device
  • The ability to scan back and forth

How does gaze interaction work?

A low-power LED shines invisible infrared light on the user's eyes. Some of the light bounces off the eye's surface, while some bounces off the retina in the back of the eye. A camera in the eye tracker takes pictures of the user's eyes and the refelctions. The system can then connect eye movement to a specific point on the computer screen.

Tobii Dynavox eye trackers are particularly useful for individuals with cerebral palsy in that they can be tracked, even though they may have large head movements. Learn more about gaze interaction here.

Opening new worlds

Using eye-gaze technology can open new worlds for those with cerebral palsy. It can let users communicate with those around them by controlling voice-generation software. By making computers accessible, the technology facilitates communication and connection with those around them. When linked with smart home devices, it allows a degree of independence that may have been unimaginable. It can help users advance their educations. It can let them have fun with computer games and express their creativity with art and music programs.

Eye-gaze technology can help unlock the full potential of those suffering from cerebral palsy.

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