Most mothers dread the day when their children start talking back to them. But not Charlene Cooper, five-year-old Lexie Cooper-Barnes’ mother. Since Lexie was born with cerebral palsy, it seemed she would not be able to talk. So how did she recently manage to say “I love you mum?” Technology. Due to eye-gaze equipment, through a special eye recognition computer, Lexie is now able to “talk back” to her parents and not just make noises and actions to communicate. According to Charlene, this technology is giving Lexie the independence and freedom her mother thought she would never have. And, as the youngest person to be using such equipment, Lexie is also breaking records.
The special £20,000 (around $32,000) laptop Lexie is using enables her to choose phrases with her eyes. Lexie’s mental ability is on a very high level for someone with severe symptoms of CP. Indeed, Mrs. Cooper said that her cases have “the doctors baffled.” The fact that Lexie has now been given a voice however with this technology, has given her a whole new lease on life, enabling her to make friends and enjoy school just like other kids.
There are many devices that are being developed to help people with spastic cerebral palsy and mixed cerebral palsy. For example, the Tobii Technology (appropriately spelt with 2 “I’s”) uses eye-tracking technology that enables the user to control computer functions by looking at points on the screen, enhancing interaction at a glance. Information from gadgets and icons is released by eyeing points on the screen; pictures and maps can be zoomed; and the device can switch between open windows while browsing emails and documents. It also has some specialized applications that help people – with CP for example – who have problems using their hands.
Tobii Technology may not so different from its predecessors, but the goal, according to company spokesman Sara Hyleen is to “bring eye tracking and eye control to regular consumer computers and computer screens.” This will render the device more mainstream, and be attractive to people without disabilities. What is particularly impressive about the technology is the options using the eye control as part of natural user interfaces that provides consumer electronics manufacturers with in various product categories.