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ALS Assistive Technology Challenge

Prize Phase Finalists

Thank you to the teams that entered the Prize Phase of the ALS Assistive Technology Challenge! The esteemed judges of the competition have narrowed down entries to the following five finalists, with the winner being announced on Dec. 5, 2016 in Dublin, Ireland at the International Symposium of ALS/MND.

Team name:
BlueSky Designs

Lead investigator:
Dianne Goodwin, M.E., B.M.E.

Team members:
Nick Lee, Marty Stone and Peter Loeffler

Location:
Minneapolis, Minn.

Description:
This powered positioning system can automatically move an eye gaze-controlled speech device to a calibrated position, maintaining continuous access to communication for people with ALS. The auto-positioning solution utilizes a camera, computer vision and facial feature software, along with a movement algorithm to move the mounted device to a specific position relative to the person’s face. The rotator accommodates a person’s head orientation. This system can be used in a bed or wheelchair, and can also be used to position other essentials near the face, such as a tube for suctioning, hydration or joystick.


Team name:
Boston Children’s Hospital

Lead investigator:
John M. Costello, Director of ALS Augmentative Communication Program, Boston Children’s Hospital

Team members:
Ole Alexander Maehle, Vice President of Engineering; Ragnar Mjelde, Program Manager; David Lee, Project Manager; TobiiDynavox International

Location:
Boston, Mass.

Description:
People with ALS/MND served through the Augmentative Communication Program at Boston Children’s Hospital bank thousands of meaningful, thoughtful, emotional and deeply and richly personal messages. Reflecting on this process, people with ALS/MND and their families report that message banking is an incredibly hopeful and positive experience in the ALS/MND journey. Yet the work associated with labelling, editing, categorizing and later integrating these messages, is extremely labour intensive, and because of this, people with ALS/MND and other providers nationally and internationally have declined to participate in message banking in a meaningful and personal way. This new application enables anyone with ALS to upload recordings they have banked, and in a matter of minutes, label all of the raw files with text of the content, correct any errors in labelling, assign each file to one or more categories and then have all of the labelled and categorized messages saved until needed.


Team name:
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior

Lead investigator:
Peter Desain, Chair of Artificial Intelligence

Team members:
Joost Raaphorst, Jan Groothuis, Janneke Weikamp, Radboud University Medical Center (NL), Neurology and Rehabilitation Departments; Bart van de Warrenburg, Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behavior (NL), Knowledge Utilisation; Evy Reviers, ALS Liga (BE), Patient Associations, Communication; Mike Chi, Cognionics (VS), EEG equipment; Merijn Klarenbeek, WeBoost, (NL) Project Management; Peter Ossenkoppele, rdgKompagne, (NL) Assistive Technology Provider

Location:
Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Description:
Novel Noise-tagging Brain Computer Interface (BCI) allows paralyzed patients to communicate by selective attention. This method is well-suited for all ALS patients, not only for patients having difficulties with eye tracking. A recent neuro-scientific and machine-learning breakthrough at the Donders Institute, based on a model that predicts EEG signals, allows a radical increase in speed and reliability of the BCI: up to one command per second and up to 99% accurate. The method adapts on the fly to loose electrodes, is insensitive to artifacts, is plug-and-play (zero-training), and allows dry headsets to be used.


Team name:
Pison Technology

Lead investigator:
Dexter Ang

Team members:
David Cipoletta, Julia Zhu, Wenxin Feng and Kyle Connors

Location:
Brookline, Mass.

Description:
Pison Technology is creating a motionless communication and control system for people with ALS and other neuromuscular conditions. It will allow a person with little to no movement ability to have full control of a laptop, a phone, and home robotics 24/7. The wearable sensors provide a real-time look into a person’s nervous system to help neurologists and pharmaceutical companies track electromyography (EMG) muscle strength on a daily basis. The prototype has been successfully tested on people who have no ability to move and will be used in clinical trials at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Department of Veterans' Affairs.


Team name:
Project Vive

Lead investigator:
Mary Elizabeth McCulloch, CEO & Founder

Team members:
Joseph McCulloch, CTO, Rodney Miller, Lead Developer

Location:
Howard, Pa.

Description:
This two-part system includes a multilingual scanning speech generation device (SGD) and wearable sensors created for people living with ALS with low-motor control. Sensors include customizable, wearable technology that allows users to navigate SGDs using a variety of body movements. The developers have prototypes of sensors and are continuing to develop the Project Vive SGD with an editor which allows users and/or caregivers to customize words, phrases and sentences. Current wearables can detect finger, elbow, knee and foot movement and are self-calibrated to prevent involuntary selections.


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