SpecialEffect

Ah, Dynavox. We’ve crossed paths before about ten years ago. Back then, I was attending conferences where AAC products were being demonstrated, and there was this one small afternoon conference aimed at the actual end user. I went in, patiently viewed the various demos, then exited to the lobby and opened my laptop. I literally had a knot of wide-eyed users gathered around me amazed by what Xpress-It and Eloquence could do. Only later did I realize it didn’t matter how many enthusiastic potential users I could get. The purchasing decisions were made by insurance companies and government agencies based on recommendations from their speech pathologists, and what the pathologists valued most was brain-dead simplicity from companies they already knew. User individualism wasn’t even a consideration. On that score, I reluctantly appreciate why Nuance (yes, the Dragon Speaking people, and eventual owners of Eloquence) decided ultimately to trashcan Eloquence. If someone wants to incorporate their simpler Expressive engine into an assistive or augmented communication product, fine. Otherwise, Nuance avoids the somewhat incestuous nature of the AAC market probably because it isn’t large enough to justify the ulcers created.

All of that is to emphasize that I have to rely on my software for articulate speech because I’ve never been able to talk. True, that level of brain damage is usually accompanied by some cognitive impairment, but not always. Authentic Cerebral Palsy is a birth defect, and, in my case, most of the damage was to voluntary motor control.

I will contact Dynavox, but I’m not hopeful. Most stateside AAC companies seem to require their vendor relationships to be exclusive. (Good God, I just noticed that our medical system is more authoritarian in some ways than even yours! That just ain’t right! J)

From: Bill Donegan [mailto:bill.donegan@specialeffect.org.uk]
Sent: Monday, February 8, 2016 9:12
To: Scott Royall <royall@conchbbs.com>
Subject: RE: SpecialEffect

Hi Scott,

R.E. Tobii contacts. I am not certain what the best route would be if you wanted to try one in the US. Probably the best idea would be to contact them here: http://www.tobiidynavox.com/contact/contact-sales/ Ideally it would be good to find a reseller who sells the other systems too (e.g. Alea dn Eyetech) so that you can give them all a go and compare.

Are you still using your voice for computer access/dictation?

Regards,

Bill

From: Scott Royall [mailto:royall]
Sent: 06 February 2016 20:35
To: Bill Donegan <bill.donegan>
Subject: RE: SpecialEffect

Bill,

Long answer cut short: I don’t have any contacts at Tobii yet. Do you? Call what I’m doing here a feasibility study, and you’re Step Zero. J Yes, computer games in aggregate are one driver behind this exploratory effort I’m making, but the goal is far more comprehensive. To state it very succinctly, I’m looking for a computer input method far faster than the one knuckle I’ve used all my life. For example, I’m also an Amateur Radio Operator, and I use my computers to control my radios and communicate over them in various modes, including voice. That is, my computers know how to speak for me.

Back when I worked for Shell Oil, my management decided that the ability to talk was a job requirement so they authorized me to conduct a test program of the best assistive communication systems available at the time. Everything tried was found to be lacking in speech that could be understood by anyone, and versatility necessary to fit into the business world. That’s why my bosses told me to develop my own solution, Xpress-It.

Xpress-It is a Windows application built around the now-venerable Eloquence speech engine, with a user interface lean enough to just get the job done with necessary assistive tools. The ability of the Eloquence engine to correctly pronounce almost anything conforming to the rules of English pronunciation still gives it an edge over the more polished sound of modern replacements. All I have to do is give the adaptive word prediction in Xpress-It enough input to turn my thoughts into words and sentences.

Now you can appreciate the larger reason for my interest in eye gaze technology. My line of sight is about the only thing I have complete control over. If gaze technology is finally accurate enough to be used with on-screen keyboards, I might become able to participate nearly in real-time in conversations. That’s an intriguing thought anyway.

Scott

From: Bill Donegan [mailto:bill.donegan]
Sent: Thursday, February 4, 2016 8:33
To: Scott Royall <royall>
Subject: RE: SpecialEffect

Hi Scott,

Sorry for the delay. Thank you for the info.

Most cameras will have ways of compensating for losing the tracking of one of the eyes. It can be more accurate when tracking both as it has two reference points as to where you are looking.

We have used Tobii PcEye Go and Alea CAM0NT camera’s mainly when this has been an issue. Is there a way you would be able to access any of these camera’s to test them out?

Regards,

Bill

From: Scott Royall [mailto:royall]
Sent: 22 January 2016 21:11
To: Bill Donegan <bill.donegan>
Subject: Re: SpecialEffect

Bill,

Here’s where I first heard of the EyeX, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb2EcZMieoY, and I believe DevilDog said it was $1,000 (‘merican money). I am not current on exchange rates so I don’t know what £1,750 equates to today. In any case, it seems either device is pretty damned costly so I had better make certain I can use them before I proceed further.

In addition to Cerebral Palsy, I wear bi-focals (getting old is indeed hell). I also have Alternating Esotropia, a curious condition where one eye turns inward. In my case, it doesn’t have any detrimental effect on my sight, but I do have the odd trait of using one dominant eye at a time. I can consciously or subconsciously select which eye is dominant at any moment, and the non-dominant one immediately turns inward. (This bizarre trait turns into an advantage when I am having to rapidly alternate between different focal ranges,) Anyway, one obvious question is does eye tracking depend on following both eyes? I can’t think of a reason why it would unless you’re calculating the actual point of convergence. Of course you can’t speak for EyeX, but you can respond regarding your product. Can it track one eye?

Scott

On Fri, Jan 22, 2016 at 12:24 PM, Bill Donegan <bill.donegan> wrote:

Hi Scott,

Frankie has passed your email on as I have had a bit of experience with the EyeX.

We do know QuickyBaby and very much appreciate his support. The demo he did with WOT was with our equipment and software set up. He did very well with it considering the software wasn’t the easiest to use!

The device we leant QuickyBaby is called a Tobii PCEYE Go (UK price £1750.00). The Tobii EyeX is about £100.00 here. The difference being that the PCEye Go has mouse support e.g. mouse movement, left and right click and dragging, whilst the EyeX is currently aimed at developers and implementing it’s use into games working directly with eye movement and not emulating mouse movment. However there is some software available which does give you some mouse control with the EyeX: this is from a third party developer not Tobii.

All eye gaze systems vary in terms of how they work with different people and also the interfaces they use. We mainly use x3 different systems with the people we work with. The Tobii PCEye Go, the Alea Intelligaze and the EyeTech TM5.

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Regards,

Bill Donegan

From: Scott Royall [

mailto:royall]
Sent: 08 January 2016 23:58
To: Frankie Palmer <frankie.palmer>
Subject: RE: Special Effect

Frankie,

Are you familiar with the minor Youtube celebrity called QuickyBaby? He does an annual charity telethon which apparently nets SpecialEffect a very respectable chunk of money. In any case, QuickyBaby recently did a video, https://youtu.be/mYEnlh0_l1c, that highlights Eye Gaze, and it was sufficient to pique my interest. Thus, my inquiry.

Curiously, an American product, EyeX, also just came to my attention. Interesting because the two devices are nearly physically identical and EyeX costs well over $1,000. I expect the same is true for Eye Gaze. There are also physical reasons why neither might work for me. Still, it doesn’t do me any harm to investigate a little, and that naturally starts with an email conversation with SpecialEffect.

Scott

t: 01608 810055 www.specialeffect.org.uk