Extra-Ability WorkshopFollowing on from the significant community interest we have received in the SMARTlab’s technologies, since the airing of the Science Squad programme on RTÉ 1: A Sense of Things to Come, we are hosting a special community engagement workshop on Extra Ability on Friday 13 July.

The Extra Ability open workshop, Directed by Dr Mick Donegan (European eye control expert/Director of SpecialEffect charity) and Professor Lizbeth Goodman (Chair of Creative Technology Innovation at UCD and SMARTlab Director), will feature an eye-control technology demonstration and show innovative methods and tools for communication with and by people with learning and physical disabilities.

RSVP to: Ms Ricki Schoen: email /+353 1 716 7970

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Queen-MaryThe Centre for Learning Innovation (CLI), formerly referred to as the Learning Technology Centre (LTC), officially launched at Croke Park on Thursday 21 June 2012.

The CLI is the tenth Technology Centre to be funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation through Enterprise Ireland in partnership with IDA Ireland. 

The SMARTlab, along with CLARITY: Centre for Sensor Web Technologies, at University College Dublin, are CLI research partners from the Higher Education sector.

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The Sunday Times ran a half-page feature (click image for larger view) in April on Dr Mick Donegan’s work with the Tobii eye-gaze system, as part of the SMARTlab’s InterFACES project (putting a human face on new technologies for learning and communication). Much of Dr Donegan’s work is targeted at raising awareness of the possibilities that this technology offers, as a means of communication for people with serious disabilities who otherwise could not communicate, and as a computer interface for those who otherwise couldn’t interact with a computer. Having transformed lives through his charity SpecialEffect and his work as co-PI on InterFACES, Dr Donegan’s main aim now is to bring this technology into the mainstream, making it more affordable and widely available. Dr Donegan is the Leader of the SMARTlab’s Multimodal and Assistive Technologies Research Group.

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On 1 March 2012, G1 publishers released the series ‘Transformers – people who change the world‘, which tells stories of people who changed their own lives in order to make significant contributions to the lives of others.

Dr Mick Donegan is the founder and director of SpecialEffect,  a UK charity that adapts free video game controls and computer games for people with physical disabilities. Read more… (The article is in Portuguese so you may want to use a translation browser plugin).

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Gaze Interaction book coverDr Mick Donegan, SMARTlab’s Adjunct Professor of Multimodal Interfaces and Assistive Technologies, and Co-PI of the SMARTlab InterFACES research project, has co-written a new book, Gaze Interaction and Application of Eye Tracking: Advances in Assistive Technologies, recently published by IGI Global.

Recent advances in eye-tracking technology will allow for a proliferation of new applications. Improvements in interactive methods using eye movement and gaze control could result in faster and more efficient human–computer interfaces, benefiting users with and without disabilities.

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Technology – Here’s looking at you [Published in TES Magazine]

Technology – Here’s looking at you

Features | Published in TES Magazine on 5 February, 2010 | By: Kieron Kirkland Dr Mick Donegan

New software allows pupils with restricted mobility to control a computer using their eyes

For pupils with limited mobility, eye gaze software – where computers can be controlled using only your eyes – makes it possible for them to really get stuck into technology. Many of these pupils are unable to control standard computers without significant effort, and even using switches or joysticks can be enormously tiring and offer fewer options than a mouse.

Pupils can now use eye gaze to access anything from specialist word processing applications to music creation programmes. Eye gaze-controlled computers track where you are looking on the screen and make the on-screen cursor follow. Resting on the same point on the screen for a set period, activating a switch, or even blinking, can be configured to have the same effect as a mouse click.

This technology has been successfully used by people with a variety of disabilities, including degenerative conditions and cerebral palsy. Until quite recently, users had to sit still to be able to operate systems of this type.

However, an increasing number of eye gaze-control systems can now be operated even by someone with quite severe involuntary movement.

The tracking component in eye-control equipment, whereby a computer is able to detect where you are looking on screen, has also been useful in wider education research. In Finland, for example, researchers have experimented with using eye-tracking software to create language programmes that are responsive to the learner. The software can detect when a particular word is being looked at for longer than normal and can bring up a dictionary for instant translation.

Helen Oakley, 14, from Milton Keynes has been using eye-gaze equipment for about six years. She has a rare inherited metabolic disorder that leaves her with very little co-ordinated movement and makes speech difficult. Helen was given access to the equipment by the Ace Centre, Oxford, as part of the user trails for the European Union-funded Cogain project (Communication by Gaze Interaction).

She has been helping developers to create appropriate tools and can now access a host of education applications, which allows her to do everything from sending emails to creative writing.

Helen’s mother, Sandra, says the eye-gaze equipment has become an important part of her daughter’s everyday life. For instance, the equipment enables Helen to play games such as chess or draughts with her brother, without being reliant on him to move the pieces. This has done wonders for her confidence.

There are limitations to this equipment, however. Although these systems are becoming smaller, Helen’s current unit can’t easily be moved between classrooms, or between school and home, so during term time it has to stay in school.

Using the equipment in the classroom also brings its own challenges, as the concentration required makes it tiring to use for long periods of time. Equally, it is time consuming to write large amounts of text, meaning that Helen still relies on somebody else to take and upload notes for her to edit. And finally, there is the cost. Eye-gaze software is expensive, costing £5,000-£11,000.

So could it become mainstream? Already the military has experimented with the technology for jet pilots as an additional means of control. And as games consoles such as the PlayStation and Xbox become more sophisticated, it seems likely that the computer game market will pick up on it.

As prices come down and the technology improves further, many more people will be able to benefit from its use.

By Kieron Kirkland, a researcher at Futurelab, and Dr Mick Donegan, deputy academic director and principal research fellow in assistive technology for SMARTlab, University of East London. www.futurelab.org.uk, www.smartlab.uk.com.

/ original web publication from http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6035055

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This month’s UEL Learning and Teaching Conference at UEL was host to a unique Eye-Gaze workshop. Dr Mick Donegan, SMARTlab’s Principal Investigator in Multimodal Interfaces & Assistive Technology, introduced pioneering eye-tracking software that enables users with restricted mobility to control 2D desktop environments and communicate using visual keyboards.

Dr Rachel Armstrong introduced the Eye-Gaze technique and its benefits, and discussed directions for further research into continued validation for the technique. The presentation included a rare chance to catch a short screening of SMARTlab’s recent sell-out Eye-Jamming event at Dublin’s Science Gallery, with James Brosnan and Katie Gilligan performing the world’s first ever Duet for Eyes!

Mick Donegan on the power of Eye-Gaze software: “Enabling someone to express themselves and engage with people in ways that they can’t do in real life – because they are restricted to a wheelchair or a bed – can have a really positive effect on their self-esteem and motivation.”

The New Scientist recently ran a related article entitled “Eye-Tracking Interface”:
http://technology.newscientist.com/article/dn13830-eyetracking-interface-means-gamers-looks-can-kill.html?DCMP=ILC-hmts&nsref=news1_head_dn13830

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