Alex is a disabled gamer who suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. While his hands cannot hold a controller or use a keyboard, he is still able to keep up with other gamers using alternative technology.
In a related report by The Inquisitr, a company called Neurowear created Tailly, a clip-on wearable tail that wags when you get excited. It uses the same technology doctors use to detect seizures and measure brain activity to make products that are more fun and frivolous, allowing us to experiment with different ways of expressing our emotions and moods.
In a similar manner, the tech created for Alex may see use in trivial ways at first, but it could also help other disabled people control complicated objects. The occupational therapists describe how they found different ways to control inputs for the video games he wanted to play:
“Finding another couple of body movements that he could use to trigger the switches reliably was going to be a challenge, so we tried a couple of things. First up, a sip/puff switch. I like it, says Alex, but I need to be able to speak my voice commands clearly. Ah, we say, what about head-mounted impulse switches? They send out tiny electrical pings that are generated by a muscle twitch. Awesome, he says after giving them a go, but sometimes I kind of need to hold a button down for a while.”
The tricky part was the inputs controlled by Alex’s eyebrows. They concocted some lever switches that would activate when Alex twitched his eyebrows:
“They had to be VERY carefully positioned and safely mounted, but Alex is a natural. He can flip his eyebrows quickly and independently, and within ten minutes of using the switches in Minecraft, he’s clicking one to jump and then, while in the air, using the other to place a block under his feet.”
Combine this with the eye-based system and the voice controls, and Alex was able to score soccer goals within FIFA within minutes.
At this point, we might ask what does Alex do when he surfs the internet: eyebrows? Regardless of corny jokes, this tech shows off how a disabled person’s life could be improved by technology that is first being used just for having fun.