Lankford Helps Paralyzed Patients Find A Voice
12, 1999 -- The eyes may not only be the windows
to the soul, but also the doorway to independence for people who
gazing at images on a computer screen, handicapped patients using
ERICA can write, log onto the Internet or operate equipment in their
homes, thanks to the work of Chris Lankford, a fifth-year master's
degree student in electrical engineering at the University of Virginia,
and his professor,
a professor of systems engineering and the inventor of scratch-and-sniff
technology, came up with the idea of ERICA (Eye-Gaze Response Interface
Computer Aid) about a decade ago. Since then, he has invited hundreds
of students to help him develop the technology, but few have contributed
as much to the effort as Lankford.
system, basically a computer and camera setup, works by bathing
the user's face in invisible infrared light, enabling the camera
to determine precisely where on the computer screen the person is
has helped fine tune the system to account for the distortion in
the image of the eye caused by eyeglasses and currently is working
on ways for it to cope with users who are palsied and can't hold
their heads still.
also has been responsible for shrinking the size of the keyboard
displayed on the screen and creating more room to put up menu options.
One exciting result of this effort has been to free enough screen
space to display two programs at once, allowing users to move beyond
software and operate off-the-shelf commercial software.
users include a 7-year-old girl in New Hampshire with cerebral palsy
and a former professor of mathematics in Central Virginia suffering
from Lou Gehrig's disease.
most beneficial part of working on ERICA is that you can see the
payoff right away," Lankford says. "You see the impact it has on
people. While we are developing other applications for the technology
[especially in advertising, diagnosis of autism, and lie detection]
ERICA was originally developed for the handicapped and that remains
our prime focus."
1994 graduate of Midlothian High School, Lankford will complete
his five-year bachelor's and master's degree program in electrical
engineering this year. He plans to pursue a doctorate in systems
engineering with Hutchinson, working on various aspects of ERICA.
more information, call Chris Lankford at (804) 982-2065, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tom Hutchinson can be reached at (804) 924-1723, or email@example.com.
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858.