Checking emails, chatting online and playing video games may seem like everyday activities, but they can feel like daunting tasks for those living with impairments that prevent them from using their hands. KinesicMouse, developed by software engineer Markus Proell, is a hands-free solution that allows users to control their computers using simple facial gestures. The innovative software recently took home the grand prize in NYU and AT&T’s Connect Ability Challenge, which awarded a total of $100,000 in prizes to adaptive and assistive technologies that improve the lives of people living with disabilities.
NYU and AT&T announced the winners of the Connect Ability competition last Monday on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act with the help of Senator Charles Schumer.
“As our technology continues to evolve, we are finding new ways to improve the lives of the disabled, increase their access to technology, and allow them to more fully enjoy the benefits of modern life. That’s what this challenge is all about,” said Senator Schumer. “When President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act after Sen. Ted Kennedy championed the bill through Congress, he hoped it would ‘tear down the shameful walls of exclusion’ that kept disabled Americans from achieving their potential. What better way to honor the 25th Anniversary of the ADA than with this competition to remove, via technology, what barriers remain.”
The three-month competition resulted in 63 submissions from 16 states and 15 countries aimed at enhancing the lives of people physical, social, emotional and cognitive disabilities. KinesicMouse took home the $25,000 grand prize for the way it allows users to operate their computers through facial expressions and head tilts, which are detected using Intel’s Real Sense 3D camera.
Eyal, a KinesicMouse user with Parkinson’s disease, called the software “The Mouse That Saved My Life” in a letter to the developers. “At the risk of sounding overdramatic, from a quality-of-life point of view, this software has allowed me to continue working and to do software development, which is what I’m most passionate about,” he writes.
Eight other groundbreaking tech solutions took home prizes in the challenge. Ava (Transcense), a mobile solution that helps the people who have hearing disabilities by translating conversations into text in real time, was awarded Best Mobility Solution and received $10,000, while LOLA, a digital tool that helps users strengthen their social and living skills through humor and personal challenges was awarded the $10,000 prize for Best Social/Emotional Solution. The $10,000 award for Best Solution for people with Communicative and Cognitive Disabilities went to Drumpants (Taps), a wearable device that lets users with limited mobility or difficulty speaking tap wearable buttons that trigger customizable phrases and Enlight, which uses iBeacon technology to aid navigation for people with impaired vision, was the winner of the $10,000 Best Solution Impacting Policy and Society category.
For a full list of winners, check out the Connect Ability Challenge site here.
Images: KinesicMouse and AT&T