It started as a voluntary project led by a small group of five engineers from Samsung Electronics’ Creative Lab (C-Lab) in 2011. Now, five years later, the eye-controlled assistive device EYECAN has inspired hope for an increasing number of users in Korea who have Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, as it’s often known.
Now in its second generation, Samsung, in cooperation with Gyeonggi Assistive Technology Research & Assistive Center (ATRAC), is focusing its efforts on introducing the EYECAN+ eye mouse to a wider range of users in local communities. So today, please meet Dong-il Choi, an assistive technology researcher from ATRAC who has been working in the field, supporting EYECAN+ users with physical disabilities.
“Unlike existing eye-tracking devices, EYECAN and EYECAN+ are an open source platform available at low cost,” Choi explained. “So the assistive device has drawn much attention from many local patients and their families since its prototype was introduced in 2011.”
Choi’s daily work routine involves visiting new EYECAN+ users. He helps them get familiar with the device and also receives feedback from each of them and their families or caregivers. “I travel a lot for work. It is challenging but rewarding as I can support each individual on the spot,” he said.
“EYECAN+ can mean hope and possibility to people with physical disabilities, but it does not necessarily guarantee free access to computers and the Internet,” Choi emphasized. “The EYECAN+ mouse is only one of the assistive tools you can use. And in order to make the best of it, you need to practice continuously to get used to it. That is why we at the center conduct a number of mandatory visits for a basic education. We can also pay additional visits whenever the users want,” he added.
“One day, one of the EYECAN+ users sent me an online message that his device was not working. It was curious, because we know he couldn’t send that message if he did not use the EYECAN+. Just as was expected, the device was working perfectly fine when I visited him. Maybe he just missed me,” recalled Choi with a smile.
As one of the most memorable episodes, he talked about a patient who suddenly developed ALS. “After developing ALS, the patient was reluctant to communicate with people and shut himself off from the outside world, but the EYECAN+ seemed to really change his behavior and help him to resume communications with his family,” he said.
“Currently, the EYECAN team is developing the third-generation device. My hope is that the new EYECAN can benefit many more people in need in a more convenient and systematic way,” Choi elaborated. Based on the feedback he and his colleagues at the center received from current users of the device, discussions on additional creative ideas are now underway.
We at Samsung Village applaud all of the members of the EYECAN development team. Please stay tuned for more updates!
(The original version of this story is available at Samsung Electronics’ Korean Newsroom here.)