Tobii Dynavox eye tracker is opening new world to little Ganga & others like her
In our weekly segment #TechThursdays, we bring you the story of the Tobii Dynavox’s eye tracking technology which is changing the lives of many people with disabilities.
Ganga’s eyes tell the whole world what is going on inside her mind. She has severe motor limitations and cannot move her limbs or fingers easily, but be it asking for a cup of tea or sharing a joke, her ability to communicate with the world around is not impaired by severe cerebral palsy.
Enabling her to break out of the barriers that cerebral palsy brings with it is an eye tracking technology. It has helped this little girl learn about the world around her and engage with people more.
When Ganga came to live at Shishur Sevay, a centre for orphan girls in Kolkata, she was four years old. “She could not even roll over”, says Dr Michelle Harrison, founder of this centre. “She only had her eyes and they followed everything that was going on. She wanted to interact with everyone, be in classroom with the other kids and would focus on the teacher”.
This lively curiosity drew Dr Harrison to look closely into different assistive technologies that could enable Ganga to blossom.
“Ganga wanted to communicate and I wanted to understand what she wanted, what she was thinking”, recalls Dr Harrison. “We tried adaptive keyboards, head pointers, and other communication aids but she just didn’t have the finger coordination or the head control to use them”.
Dr Harrison then found out about the eye tracking technology of Tobii Dynavox, among the leading global providers of eye-tracking and gaze interaction-based Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. These devices help anyone with significant communication challenges communicate more effectively.
Education and self-expression are among the basic activities that can be limited by cerebral palsy. It’s difficult to learn to read or write when it’s impossible to hold a book or control a pencil. With eye-gaze technology, students can write by simply gazing at a keyboard on a computer screen. They can turn pages in electronic books with a glance. Thanks to new and empowering technologies, students with CP now can learn and express themselves with relative independence. – Kunal Naik, Founder-Director, WTMB, India partner
From history to geography to nature and even the daily news, the world has now opened up for Ganga. She just gazes at the computer and is able to surf the Internet, without using her hands or fingers.
“This technology has opened up a world of possibilities for children for whom other assistive technologies that need fine motor control are not an option”, adds Purba Rudra, a member of the Shishur Sevay team. “This has changed life not only for Ganga but for other children with disabilities here. It has enabled them to communicate, to choose what they want to say”.
The eye tracker is user-centric and caregivers needs to spend less than a day on learning how to use it, says Naik. “For users, it would depend on the cognitive levels.”
Currently the technology is being used at All India Institute of Physical and Medical Rehabilitation (AIIPMER), Mumbai, Asha Ek Hope, a Mumbai NGO, and the All India Institute of Speech and Hearing (AIISH) in Mysuru, to name a few.
Like Ganga, this technology is helping to change the lives of many other people with disabilities in India, enabling them towards greater independence and participation in the world around them.
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