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Aug 29 2014

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Eye Tracking and the Ice Bucket Challenge



This summer, millions of people partook in the Ice Bucket Challenge which was created to raise awareness for ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In addition to raising awareness for a great cause, there were some hilarious videos, some surprising videos and some videos of people accepting the challenge even though they were wearing dress clothes.

Sure, some dismissed it as a waste of time and water, but it is our belief that all people who participated in this challenge deserve commendation, even if it’s “just a fad”. Similar to what The West Wing did for Multiple Sclerosis awareness and the Livestrong bracelets did for cancer awareness, the Ice Bucket Challenge did an incredible job this summer raising awareness for the terrible disease known as ALS.

Don’t believe us? Think “incredible” is too strong of a word? Consider this:

Forbes reported today that the ALS association has raised over 100 million on the back of awareness raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge. Have a look at the chart below.

Chart from Plenty Consulting showcasing the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Chart from Plenty Consulting showcasing the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge

The reason that we’re so adamant about making sure people know how awesome the Ice Bucket Challenge is and how wonderful it is that it raised so much money is because this is an issue that hits very close to home.

 —– Just in case you are one of the very few people who perhaps doesn’t know what ALS is – here is a quick explanation: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement. Neurons waste away or die, and can no longer send messages to muscles, eventually leading to muscle weakening, twitching, and an inability to move the arms, legs, and body. (H/T PubMed Health) —

The one part of the body that ALS patients do have control over, however, is their eyes. In fact, for years, people with ALS have been using eye-tracking technology (albeit expensive hardware solutions) in order to communicate with the outside world by controlling their screens with their eyes.

Here is a commercial that Microsoft displayed during last year’s Super Bowl which showcases former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason (an ALS patient) using an eye-tracking machine to communicate with his children and with the world. The commercial says that technology gives hope to the hopeless and voice to the voiceless.

We consistently get messages from folks who have loved ones with ALS and describe heartbreaking symptoms but focus on the hope that technology provides. In an email to Umoove, one person described her volunteer work with ALS patients. She then wrote that eye-tracking can “allow them freedom, quality of life and the opportunity to have their voices heard.” Another person, whose grandfather has had ALS for several years, wrote that eye-tracking helps realize “the dream for independence in operating mobile technology”.

Until this summer, ALS fundraising was limited to focusing on people like Gleason and Professor Stephen Hawking (arguably the worlds most famous ALS patient after Lou Gehrig himself) but now — thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge — millions of more people have become aware and have donated money.

We are proud to be a part of an industry that has worked hard to improve the lives of ALS patients and are thrilled that the Ice Bucket Challenge has brought so much awareness (and money) to the disease. We hope that people with ALS can use eye-tracking as a vehicle to realize that they might have been given a bad break….but they’ve got an awful lot to live for.

 

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