A group of artists and engineers have created an affordable way for a disabled graffiti artist to draw again by using his eyes.
In 2003, Los Angeles based graffiti artist Tony Quan was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, which left every muscle in his body paralyzed apart from his eyes. Eye-tracking equipment is commercially available, but usually carries a hefty price tag and a group of artists and engineers were determined to let Tony draw again without breaking the bank.
Zach Lieberman of the Graffiti Research Lab along with developers from Free Art and Technology, OpenFrameworks and the Ebeling Group created an affordable, open source system called the EyeWriter, which is a DIY kit built estimated to cost about $50, that can be built on to a pair of regular eyeglasses.
"... we assembled a kind of wire frame that holds a Web cam, a small camera that we've mounted close to the eye," Lieberman explains. "We've written software that tracks the eye, and then we calibrate with [Quan's] eye movements and the computer screen ... he can plot points. And from plotting points, create letters. And from creating letters, create words. And then color the words, shade the words, extrude them in 3-D, add different features," he added.
Lieberman and his team have won a Future Everything Award for innovation, which includes a cash prize, but say that wealth is not their goal, rather they want to help people communicate: "There are people who have loved ones who have ALS or locked-in syndrome ... or other diseases, where having that option, at least, of a kind of device that you can build for somebody in need is really important and really necessary," he says. "We're not in it to make money. This is really coming from the heart."