The UMD Communication Sciences and Disorders program
has been researching devices for use by special needs people for several
years and now they have a new technology that may be more specialized
than ever before. Eye-Gaze Response Interface Computer Aid (ERICA) is
a device that tracks eye movement to enable hands-free computer operation.
ERICA is being developed for people who have had strokes,
who have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or other conditions where
they have lost their voice and may only be able to move their eyes.
As the person gazes at a keyboard, an infrared light tracks their eye
movement and a message appears as type on the screen. The device can
also deliver a synthetic voice output. The technology can allow users
to speak, write e-mail, surf the internet, create documents, or play
games through eye movement alone. No keyboard or mouse is needed.
"There have been tremendous advances in communication technologies
in recent years," said Mark Mizuko, Communication Sciences and
Disorders professor. "UMD seeks to make the most of these new technologies
- both hardware and supportive software - to help our northern Minnesota
clients who have communication difficulties."
Joseph Maddern, a UMD Robert F. Pierce Speech-Language-Hearing
Clinic client, has been testing ERICA. Maddern, who experienced a stroke
while working as a successful wine broker in Florida, is trying out
the ERICA device to determine if it will help him get a job. His cognitive
skills are at 100 percent. In fact, he returned to the College of St.
Scholastica after his stroke and received his bachelor’s degree
in Business Management. He is intelligent, witty, and personable, but
because his speech is slow and he only has the use of one hand, employers
are reluctant to hire him. His positive attitude, along with the support
of his daughter, helped him downhill ski, eat with chopsticks, and ride
a bike. It is this drive that brought him to UMD six to eight times
a month to work on his computer skills. “I know there’s
something out there for me. Maybe it’s in sales,” he said.
“My goal is to use ERICA or another device so I can get a job.
A really high paid job.”
Graduate student Jolene Hyppa Martin said, “We think
the ERICA technology has a lot of promise because as motor skills decrease,
eye movement is the skill that remains in use the longest.” In
addition to ERICA, UMD has a number of other devices in their line-up
including devices that use a thumb or foot switch, voice recognition
or touch. “If a person has even the smallest control, like the
blink of an eye or a facial twitch, we can help them communicate using
our computers,” said Martin. The Communication Sciences and Disorders
program wants the community to be aware of their services. “If
people in the area would like to test our technology to find a device
suited to their needs contact the Robert Pierce Speech Language Hearing
Clinic at 218-726-8199.
Mizuko and four graduate students, Martin, Jessica Cassellius,
Kristen Eklund, and Stacia Syrett, gave a presentation about their ERICA
research at the Closing the Gap annual conference in the Twin Cities
last October. Closing the Gap has an international reputation for information
on innovative computer technology for persons with disabilities.
Photo above: Joseph Maddern
uses ERICA. Below: Professor Mark Mizuko and graduate student Jolene
Written by Cheryl Riana Reitan. Posted Jan 19, 2005
Cheryl Reitan, Publications Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
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