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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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.

(more…)

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SMARTlab is featured on Becta’s Emerging Technologies website with a project video demonstrating the potential of new interface technologies such as eye tracking to improve curriculum access for all. Dr Mick Donegan is planning to introduce such technologies at schools across the UK. If you are interested in this technology, you can get in touch with us at info@smartlab.uk.com.


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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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[Show & Tell] SMARTlab Seminar Series is next held in SMARTlab on Thursday 28th of January

WHEN: Thursday 28 January 2010; 6:00pm – 8:00 pm
WHERE: SMARTlab Digital Media Institute, KD1.21 Knowledge Dock, UEL

Presented by:
Professor Lizbeth Goodman and Dr Mick Donegan of SMARTlab on: Creative Interfaces for All. InterFACES is a group of projects which aim to develop new Assistive Technology tools for people with complex disabilities. Within InterFACES there is a particular emphasis on the development of tools to enhance creative expression and to make the use of Assistive Technology as easy and practical as possible, for as many people as possible.

Ben Edwards (Creative Director/Special Needs Teacher) and team from the Three Ways School and Sensory Studio, Bath.

Professor Peter McOwan – Director of Outreach in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London.

Ann Gallacher and Oliver Benjamin, Senior Programme Managers of “A New Direction”
A New Direction is an independent charity working with Londonʼs schools and young people to develop creative approaches to teaching and learning, build aspirations and skills, and connect young people to their city and the opportunities around them.
Followed by a musical performance by Sapna Ramnani and the Punk Vikings!
Robbie Perry of Dead can Dance & SMARTlabʼs very own Punk PhD supervisor, Dr Deveril (using Mytobii as an eye controlled assistive technology)

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A great picture of James Brosnan (SMARTlab researcher) and Colm Ó Snodaigh (Kila, musician) picked as ‘Pictures of the year 2009’ in The Irish Times Magazine.

The newspaper published a story on the InterFACES project including interviews with James and Colm titled Music at the blink of an eye on 25th March 2009. The article is available to read here.

(Pictured by Frank Miller, titled ‘The Voice Inside’)

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‘I just use technology to express myself,’ says James Brosnan, seen here at his home in Kilbarrack with Colm Ó Snodaigh of Kíla.

Photograph: Frank Miller

An imaginative use of technology has allowed James Brosnan to use his laptop to jam with musicians – despite having cerebral palsy and being in a wheelchair, writes SIOBHÁN LONG 

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Times Higher Awards 2008 shortlists InterFACES for ‘Outstanding Support for Students With Disabilities’>> October ’08

SMARTlab’s InterFACES was one of just six British university projects nominated for this year’s prestigious THE (Times Higher Education) Awards 2008.

The award nomination recognised the innovative research work that SMARTlab does in developing new technologies, multimedia interfaces and other tools to empower and give voice to the world’s vulnerable and disadvantaged communities including children in hospital, youth at risk, women in developing countries, aboriginal peoples, elderly citizens and people with disabilities.

In particular Principal Investigator Dr. Mick Donegan, Co-PI Professor Lizbeth Goodman and the research team James Brosnan, Dr Brian Duffy, Dr Rachel Armstrong, Bobby Byrne, Camille Baker, Toby Borland, Sapna Ramnani, Jeremi Sudol, Aejaz Zahid, Jana Riedel, Vanessa Wiegand et al have all been recognized for their outstanding work on InterFACES – Setting free creative expression for students with the most complex disabilities.

We would especially like to thank Microsoft and Tata for jointly sponsoring our second Awards table, including the cost of flying in James Brosnan (our collaborator and user-tester with Cerebral Palsy) and his assistant from Dublin for the event. Microsoft and Tata are committed to the roll out of SMARTclubs for the world’s digital citizens, including people with disabilities.

THE Awards Shortlist:
http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/hybrid.asp?typeCode=241&pubCode=1&navcode=98

Press Release:
http://www.uel.ac.uk/news/press_releases/releases/smartlab-shortlisted.htm

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