I’d like to dedicate this post as a follow-up to my presentation to talk more about Camera Mouse, along with other areas that spiked your interest from the feedback I received.
For someone who has grown up using computers ever since I can remember, I sometimes find myself taking technology for granted. What technology allows me to do so effortlessly is not always the case for people with disabilities who have little mobility to type or use the mouse on a computer. And like I mentioned, this is where Camera Mouse can give people more than a voice, but additional life value.
To really understand how Camera Mouse works, I think watching a video of someone using it is a lot easier than me trying to explain it in more detail. But as a quick refresher, it is a free computer program that allows you to control the mouse pointer of your computer just by moving a part of your head. So alas, below is a video of how it works with a lovely voice over by none other than Professor Gips himself.
The fact that this download is free is a huge factor because it gives accessibility to everyone. A few other similar assistive technologies exist, but they require purchasing hardware that can cost anywhere from $500 to over $1000.
But who is Camera Mouse for?
While I mentioned that assistive technologies can help people with disabilities, I would like to address exactly who Camera Mouse can really influence. Gips helped design this program for people who lack the ability to move their hands or speak to a voice recognition program, including people with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, and various neurological disorders.
As I also mentioned, I am working with the Campus School at Boston College that has slightly over 40 students today. These students have severe disabilities, including some of the ones I mentioned above. But Camera Mouse goes beyond the Campus School students. While it’s been amazing and inspiring to see the Campus School students use the program, people with all disabilities all around the world use Camera Mouse. Since Camera Mouse started in 2007, there have been over 3 million downloads, and a large number of downloads come from India, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.
“[Camera Mouse is] a valuable resource, not just for education but also for communication, enabling children with severe special needs to communicate, in some cases for the first time, with others and with their peers.” -Minister for Education of Northern Ireland
So yes, Camera Mouse can be used by anyone in the world with a disability or who has trouble using a computer with his or her hands. But what’s challenging and what we are trying to figure out at the Campus School, is exactly how many people can benefit from Camera Mouse. While I believe in the value of this technology, I also believe it has the potential to be used by a lot more people, especially students because it allows them to show their intelligence, read passages, and answer test questions on the computer. It can even allow students with severe disabilities to attend standard high schools. In fact, Professor Gips was able to see one of the students he first worked with actually graduate high school because of Camera Mouse!
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly how many students Camera Mouse because schools are not allowed to give up any specific information about their students with disabilities because of HIPAA standards. However, there are some statistics that do exist, including:
1. Around 8% of the U.S. population has a severe disability, which is around 24 million people (National Inclusion Service Project)
2. In 2013-2014, around 6.5 million students ages 3-21 had a disability in the U.S. (National Center for Education Statistics)
These numbers are simply restricted to the U.S., so I believe that there are many more people Camera Mouse has the potential to reach globally. (3 million downloads has yet to tap its potential!) I also believe that this technology can be used by anyone who does not have full mobility of their hands, even students who break their arms and cannot write at school.
But there’s more!
EagleEyes is the second assistive technology Professor Gips helped develop. Similar to Camera Mouse, EagleEyes allows people with physical disabilities to move the mouse cursor by moving their eyes. This device is different in the sense that it requires attaching electrodes to a person’s head in order to detect eye position and each device costs a little over $1000. EagleEyes is designed for people who have little to no head mobility and cannot use Camera Mouse. Disclaimer: I know less about EagleEyes because it is not used by any Campus School students and has been licensed to the Opportunity Foundation of America in Utah.
Moving forward, I think Camera Mouse can be a huge element in helping increase learning programs for students, both in the Campus School but also schools throughout the country. Another challenge my consulting project is trying to solve is how to best leverage this innovative technology to help create Boston College and the Campus School as a Center of Excellence, including utilizing social media pages and outreach to schools.
As part of my project, we are working on creating marketing materials, training guides, and an outreach program. If we can create effective training manuals and guides for other schools in the country, we can help bring Camera Mouse to more schools that would otherwise spend money on expensive equipment, add value to people’s lives, and hopefully increase revenue for the Campus School. Another aspect includes creating more up-to-date videos and pictures, hence the lack of photos in this post.
Red Nose Day
So far, I have yet to see another assistive technology like Camera Mouse that is both free and not dependent on another piece of hardware to connect. You might be familiar with Red Nose Day, an annual television campaign that aired last month (March 24th) that gives proceeds to help end child poverty. One of the comedic videos included Stephen Hawking casting famous celebrities in order to find a new voice for his assistive technology computer.
This video is funny!
While this video was solely for comedic purposes, it spiked my interest about Hawking’s computer. I won’t go into extensive detail here, but Hawking was diagnosed with ALS and lost his ability to speak. Using a computer-based communication system created by Intel, he can select characters by moving his cheek. The Intel Team stated in 2015:
“The idea is to have a camera pointed at Stephen’s face to pick up not just his cheek movements but other facial movements. He could move his jaw sideways, up and down, and drive a mouse and even potentially drive his wheelchair. These are cool ideas but they won’t be coming to completion any time soon.”
Should Camera Mouse give Mr. Hawking a call?