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Honduran teenager develops low-cost keyboard for the disabled

posted 12 Dec 2011, 08:32 by Mpelembe   [ updated 12 Dec 2011, 08:33 ]
A teenager from the impoverished nation of Honduras has developed an inexpensive eyeball-tracking computer device that could dramatically change the lives of thousands of disabled people in developing countries. Andrew Schmertz reports.

REUTERS / LUIS FERNANDO CRUZ - Most of us use a mouse and keyboard to navigate around a computer screen.

But a teenager in Honduras is winning praise for developing an inexpensive eyeball tracking system that could change the way disabled people use computers.

17-year-old Luis Fernando Cruz developed the system after he learned about the plight of physically challenged students.


"In my last year of high school I met a fellow student who is paraplegic. After hearing their story, I decided to investigate a little more into how people (with disabilities) do things so I can be aware of the problems and then I discovered that such systems are very expensive. For example, a similar system costs more than $10,000 and I found that many people cannot pay this, especially in countries like Honduras."

But they can afford his system. It costs just 300 dollars, making the potentially life-changing technology accessible to thousands of disabled people in the developing world.

The system operates through electrodes built into a pair of inexpensive glasses.

The interface then tracks horizontal eye movement by measuring small electrical changes generated by the eye-ball.

The software translates these changes into inputs that choose letters in a grid, providing people with motor disabilities a new way to communicate

For Cruz, the eye-tracking keyboard was a natural follow-up to his first invention.


"At 16, I developed the first video console in Honduras, the first video game console ever made in Honduras. Then I did other projects and then I became interested in the interface between humans and the computer so I began this project."

Cruz hopes his device can attract attention in the United States where he would like to attend college, and turn his passion for computer technology into a career.

Andrew Schmertz, Reuters.