The ALS Association
Ice Bucket Challenge Progress

ALS Assistive Technology Challenge

Grant Phase Winners

Dianne Goodwin, M.E., B.M.E., BlueSky Designs, Minneapolis

Title: Power positioning of speech devices and other essential equipment

Project Goal: To expand on the capabilities of a powered mounting and positioning system that allows independent repositioning of communication, hydration and suctioning devices by people at various stages living with ALS.

Researcher Summary:
Eye gaze and head tracking technologies have greatly increased access to communication, but speech devices must be in very specific positions and orientation relative to one’s face. This project addresses the pervasive problem—when a patient’s position changes, they cannot access their device. Until someone else moves it, they cannot communicate or use their device. What if the device could move itself to the right position? This team has developed a powered mounting and positioning system, which allows independent repositioning by people at various stages of ALS via accessible inputs. This project expands on its capabilities, enabling automatic repositioning of speech devices for eye gaze access to positions within the calibration zone. The principal development goal is to move the device to targeted positions relative to a person’s face, especially their eyes and mouth. Auto-positioning applications extend beyond communication to hydration and suctioning, for example bringing a suction tube to a person’s mouth and controlling the suction machine. Additional project goals include the following: developing a powered rotator to adjust for changes in a person’s head positioning; control of other devices; and movement routines so the device returns to the last-used position or moves based on the time or at timing intervals.


Doron Friedman, Sammy Ofer School of Communications (New Media), The Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel

Title: BeSeeEye

Project Goal: To establish an easy to use, low cost communication device that is operated by facial gestures.

Researcher Summary:
The project objective is to establish an easy to use, low cost communication device that is operated by facial gestures. The assumption is that patients in a progressed ALS condition still possess residual control over their facial muscles and that they have the ability to perform specific movements of their face. Our approach complements solutions based on eye tracking and provides options for the patient to communicate using blinks, eyebrow gestures or even smiles. Although there may be other methods to recognize such facial gestures, we suggest that using consumer 'EEG' devices (equipped with dry electrodes and wireless communication) is the best current option, since these devices are comfortable, easy to wear and are relatively cheap.


Ivo Vieira, LusoSpace Projectos de Engenheria Lda, Lisbon, Portugal

Title: ARTERFACE – Augmented Reality Interface

Project Goal: To make a first step for levering the EyeSpeak product as an augmented reality interface with eye tracking for the ALS community.

Researcher Summary:
The project intends to make a first step for levering the EyeSpeak product as an augmented reality interface for other hardware and software assistive technologies. EyeSpeak is the first product that uses augmented reality with eyetracking for the ALS community. Its main benefit is that it can be used in any position/orientation because the display is always in front of the user. Currently, its main functionality is to communicate, to navigate in the Internet and to use android applications installed in the controller. EyeSpeak could be used as an interface for controlling the TV, the room illumination, the wheel chair, among other devices. The objective of this project is to perform the first step of this long-term objective by configuring a remote desktop connection to a Windows based PC using the Click2Speak assistive software.


John Costello, B.S., M.A., Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston

Title: Message Bank Conversion and Storage Software for ALS Patients

Project Goal: To develop a software based system that allows people to use hand held recording devices to bank messages throughout the day in functional and in the moment scenarios and then download those directly to software that can label, categorize and archive the messages.

Researcher Summary:
The proposed project will spark a major paradigm shift in ALS care. Currently most patients are not introduced to message banking either because of provider lack of awareness, false assumption that it must be done in an isolated and sterile environment or more importantly, a reluctance to invest time and energy required to record, store and categorize voice messages. The researchers plan to develop a software based system that allows people to use hand held recording devices to bank messages throughout the day in functional and in the moment scenarios. People living with ALS can then download those messages directly to software that can label, categorize and archive them, in order to dramatically reduce the barrier to entry. Moreover, this will restore dignity and hope to thousands of people with ALS during a time of uncertainty and fear by providing family members with a life long legacy.

Back to Main Page

Connect With Us

Sign up for news on the latest advances in ALS research.

For scientists looking for more information about grant opportunities and meetings, contact researchgrants@alsa-national.org

Follow Us
ALS Association Blog

Read the latest ALS news and discover how your support makes an impact!

Powered by Blackbaud
nonprofit software