Microsoft started working with Steve Gleason two years ago this week at //oneweek, their annual hackathon. Microsoft was trying to develop technology to help people with ALS, specifically to help them communicate more easily. The Ability EyeGaze hackathon team came together to tackle that challenge and ended up winning the whole hackathon that year. Two years on, Microsoft is still working with Steve to improve the lives of people affected by ALS. Microsoft Enable team in Microsoft Technology and Research is developing technology that enables people to move their wheelchairs and communicate through their keyboards using nothing more than the movement of their eyes.
The passion and dedication of everyone that has touched this project has been overwhelming; it’s been a remarkable experience in which to participate. In that time, the project has evolved from an early stage hack into technology that helps Steve do exactly what he asked: be more independent. Steve is regularly using the technology to get around and to communicate with friends and family, just as he had envisioned at the beginning.
The technology may now be real and have a lot less duct tape involved than when we first started, but the work is far from done. We are still in the research phase and are continuing to improve it – even here at //oneweek this week – with the goal of making it available to everyone who can benefit from it.
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