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Alternative Acess: EagleEyes and Camera Mouse

Posted by Debbie Inkley on April 11, 2012

Posted on March 03, 2012 on http://essentialeducator.org/?p=11996

Walk in most any class where computers are available and you will find students accessing them by scrolling and clicking a mouse and typing on a QWERTY keyboard. However, when students have multiple disabilities or other impairments which impede their effective use of these typical methods of input, they are often found passively watching what others have selected for them to view on the computer screen. Some may believe these students are not intellectually or physically able to use a computer. Yet advances in assistive technology have provided multiple alternatives to accessing computers.

EagleEyes Use

Alternative access hardware often includes adapted keyboards, trackballs, joysticks, and switches. Because these devices require physical ability, other alternative access may be necessary, such as a microphone with speech recognition software, sip-and-puff technology, and vision-based input devices.

In 1994, Boston College Computer Science Professor Jim Gips developed an innovative eye-controlled technology called EagleEyes, which enables users to access the computer by simply looking at the computer screen. Users are connected to the unit by electrodes placed on their faces, and the unit is connected to the computer via a USB port. EagleEyes measures a user’s electro-oculographic potential that indicates the position of the eyes relative to the head. The mouse cursor follows where the user is looking on the screen. The eyes essentially replace the mouse, and therefore EagleEyes is usable with any commercial software. Each selection is made by looking at a small area of the screen for a short period of time, which causes a mouse click.

The EagleEyes technology has been used at the Boston College Campus School for almost 20 years to evaluate and teach students with multiple and physical disabilities. In 2005, the Opportunity Foundation of America began a partnership with the Boston College EagleEyes Project and signed a formal license agreement to manufacture, distribute and provide training for the technology. Together they are bringing EagleEyes to the forefront of the assistive technology community.

EagleEyes is used for entertainment, communication, and education. It is appropriate for those who are unable to access computers with a typical mouse or other means which requires physical or verbal skills. Students who have intentional eye gaze are good candidates for this technology. Many EagleEyes users have profound or multiple disabilities, are non-verbal or have very limited methods of communicating, or have paralysis. Recent success has been experienced with students who have cortical visual impairments.

In 2000, Professor Gips developed Camera Mouse, a mouse replacement system to access a Windows-based computer with a webcam (free download available at www.cameramouse.org). This technology is most appropriate for those who do not have reliable control of their hands, but do not need to use EagleEyes because they have purposive head control. The technology has found its major application in helping people with multiple disabilities, cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury and various neurological disorders.


The Camera Mouse technology is less restrictive than EagleEyes as it does not involve putting on electrodes. It involves sitting in front of a webcam and moving one’s head. Thus, people who have good head control are encouraged to try Camera Mouse first. If the user is not successful with Camera Mouse, EagleEyes is another option for a mouse replacement.

There have been 700,000 downloads of Camera Mouse since it was first publically available in 2007. More than 2,000 Camera Mouse downloads are running each day all over the world.

In the early learning stage of using an alternative mouse, users experience simple cause-and-effect activities such as those developed by Dr. Gips where users “paint” with their eyes, and shoot aliens by moving their eyes across the computer screen. Other commercial or public domain software is also appropriate for teaching cause-and-effect. Once users are successful at controlling the mouse cursor, they can proceed to use other software for educative or communicative purposes. Advanced users can access anything on the computer screen that is available to users who use a keyboard and a typical mouse. The basic Microsoft package includes an on-screen keyboard (click on the “Start” button and search for “on-screen keyboard” to bring it up), and a more child-friendly keyboard is available for free (www.midastouch.org).


While these technologies may not be appropriate for some individuals with severe or multiple disabilities, they have been successful for many. Two users will be highlighted below.

EagleEyes for Angel. Eight-year-old Angel (Angelina) Danis attends Jordan Valley School in the Canyons Schools District. Angel has been diagnosed with Rett Syndrome and is non-verbal with very limited use of her hands. At the beginning of the school year, Angel’s teacher, Linda Eller, suggested to her parents that Angel would be a good candidate for the EagleEyes technology.

The first time Angel tried EagleEyes she was able to intently focus and was very engaged. Each time her EagleEyes volunteers come into the classroom room, she gets excited because she knows it’s time to learn and play. After using the technology consistently for 5 months, Angel has improved her ability to respond to her surroundings, to positively participate in her daily activities, and to be actively involved in her education.

EagleEyes has also given Angel a voice and the ability to communicate with the world around her. Linda Eller shares, “Her smile is worth a million dollars but to watch her succeed in an educational game or activity is priceless. The symbol for Rett’s is a butterfly. Angel is my inspiration and she fights every day to let us know she is here, and to let her fly. My goal as her teacher is to set her free, to open her world to education and to the fun life that every eight-year-old girl wants.”

After watching Angel’s success at school, her parents decided it would be very helpful for Angel to also have the technology at home. This proved to be true. Tracey Danis, Angel’s Mom, shares, “EagleEyes has been amazing for our daughter. It has allowed her to be more independent and not have to rely on ‘hand over hand’ to complete a task. It gives her the chance to make her own choices instead of always having them made for her. She can now play games like any other eight-year-old child. She gets so excited to use EagleEyes and it has really awakened her. She knows she has control of the mouse and she loves it. The most amazing thing for me was when I watched my daughter count for the first time. I watched as she counted the spots on a ladybug and then selected the correct number symbol. Not only does this show that she is ‘in there,’ but that she understands and has the ability to learn and grow academically. I hope with EagleEyes to someday teach Angel how to read and write.”

Camera Mouse for Darrin. A mother of Darrin, who uses Camera Mouse, wrote to Maureen Gates, EagleEyes Project Director at the Boston College Campus School. She writes:

Dear Maureen, I want to thank you and let you know what a great help you and Camera Mouse have been. You have changed a young man’s life overnight!

My son loves shooting aliens, painting, spelling and exploring other games programs on his brother’s computer. It is amazing to watch him. He can now spell out his name on the keyboard for the first time ever. He played on the computer for almost 3 hours yesterday. What a transformation.

The experience gave him and me some real hope after all the doctor visits, wheelchair issues, and insurance and school problems.

Thank you, Maureen, Professor Gips and Boston College for Camera Mouse!

Angel and Sister

Technology has the power to change the lives of individuals with significant disabilities. However, without access to assistive technology and the training necessary for effective implementation, the full effects of this power will not be realized. For the past five years teacher candidates at Brigham Young University have been trained to use EagleEyes and Camera Mouse. These teacher candidates have given students at Oakridge School opportunities to engage in learning activities that were previously not considered due to the significant nature of the students’ disabilities. Currently, teachers at 21 schools across the state of Utah and in 2 schools in Ireland have received training and regularly use EagleEyes with success. Many EagleEyes units have been purchased or donated to families for use in their homes.

While EagleEyes and Camera Mouse may not be silver bullets to “cure,” or “fix” the disabilities these users experience, they may be important components in a multi-element plan to expose users to an electronic world that their peers, teachers, and families rely upon daily.

To learn more about EagleEyes and to view videos of individuals using the technology, visitwww.bc.edu/schools/csom/eagleeyes or www.ofoa.net. To inquire about a demonstration of EagleEyes for a potential user or for teacher candidate and teacher training, contact Debbie Inkley of the Opportunity Foundation of America at debbieinkley(at)ofoa.net. For more information about Camera Mouse, contact Dr. Gips at james.gips(at)bc.edu.

Authors: Tina T. Dyches, Brigham Young University, Debbie Inkley, Opportunity Foundation of America, &Maureen Gates, Boston College Campus School

April 2012 Newsletter

Posted by Debbie Inkley on April 6, 2012

EagleEyes, opens doors

Posted by Andrew on March 23, 2012

EagleEyes: Technology ‘opens so many doors' for disabled students

Northville Public Schools student Demarco Williams was pretty excited about the EagleEyes computer-human interface system.

Williams was among special needs students trying out the technology recently in a classroom at Hillside Middle School.

“It's incredible the opportunities it's opening,” Cooke School classroom teacher Lorie Farrow said of EagleEyes. “It opens so many doors and gives them opportunities they never had before. When we find something that works for our kids, we're so grateful.”

EagleEyes will help Northville students ages 3-26 with cognitive and physical challenges. Farrow wrote the grant for it through Old Village School, with the Northville Education Foundation grant used to purchase technology.

“It's so they have access to a computer,” said Susan Oleson, a speech and language pathologist at Cooke and Old Village Schools for special needs students. EagleEyes will be based at Old Village classrooms at Cooke, and was also supported locally by the Jane Frances Abler Memorial Fund, named for a former student.

Students who can't use a mouse, lacking those motor skills, can with EagleEyes use eye movement for learning, communication and entertainment. It turns electric impulses of muscles around the eye into mouse “clicks,” Oleson said.

Farrow described another student who began to access the computer via EagleEyes: “She could play with a computer program by herself for the first time in her life.”

It was developed in the early 1990s by James Gips at Boston College. Ron Williams, director of education and training for the Salt Lake City-based Opportunity Foundation of America came to Northville to help set up the technology.

“Basically their communication is yes-no command,” said Williams, whose foundation took over the technology in 2003. Students acquire greater freedom to communicate, and one young man in Boston with high intelligence was able to graduate from high school with EagleEyes help.

There are fewer than 100 in the world, Williams said, and the NPS one's only the second in Michigan. Northville educators hope to share it with other districts when possible.

“The Cooke School has really embraced it and seen the potential,” Williams said, noting the technology is easy for educators to use “and see really defined success. It provides them (students) that opportunity they wouldn't have had otherwise.”


Written by
Julie Brown
Staff Writer

6:03 AM, Mar. 22, 2012

Click here for the original story

Abbie's Story

Posted by Debbie Inkley on November 15, 2011

Abbie Doran

Abbie's five and a half year journey on the road to recovery has been a difficult, painful and bumpy road with many obstacles and zigzags. The miracle of EagleEyes, the growth, love, generosity and compassion of Professor Jim Gips, Maureen Gates, the Opportunity Foundation of America and the many loving mothers and fathers who have dedicated their lives to helping their special children is the same miracle as Abbie's emerging recovery. We all understand that there is whole person with a thinking mind and feelings inside the restricted bodies of those we love. We parents fight for the recognition and the rights of our children and Professor Gips and the Opportunity Foundation of America have given us a tool that will help us and our children to fight against the ignorance of those who believe that our children are empty shells who would be better off dead. EagleEyes allows our children the joy of success when their eyes movements allow them to play games, paint, kick a soccer ball, and begin to make sentences with their computers using communication boards. EagleEyes is giving us a tool to add more light and goodness into the world and to push back the fear and darkness that allows healthy people, courts, schools and employers to attempt to hide from and ignore the severely disables. EagleEyes restore our childrens' humanity and dignity.

Susan Cohen
Mother of Abbie Doran

Gilberto's Story

Posted by Debbie Inkley on August 19, 2011

I can't begin to tell you how extraordinary working with EagleEyes has been. It is amazing to see how well Gilberto is doing. He is a 4th grade student who is extremely hyper tonic. We even have to hold his head in order for him to be able to look in the right direction. He is already playing aliens and doing quite well. He is one of those students that is definitely trapped inside his body. He is able to click his tongue in response to a yes/no questions but it is inconsistent. I am looking forward to helping him communicate via EagleEyes. You should see the look on his face when he comes in to my office. It is PURE JOY!!!

Bernice Maxwell
School Psychologist
Lynn Urquides
Tucson Unified School District
Tucson, Arizona

July 2011 Newsletter

Posted by Debbie Inkley on July 1, 2011

Willy and Mike

Posted by Debbie Inkley on May 3, 2011


Willy and Mike


A little over three years ago I was introduced to Willy Winch. Willy is a student at Jordan Valley School and a bright young man who has the coolest laugh in the world. Our paths crossed through EagleEyes and the Opportunity Foundation of America (OFOA). Willy and I started using EagleEyes in a small room at the school and over three years later we have created Willy's EE team that includes Mary Murphy, her daughter Madison, Olga Sandoval and myself. We started our journey with the Paint and Aliens Games and have progressed forward to matching and targeting.

That's the EagleEyes side of our relationship now for the most important part of the relationship…the friendship part. I have gotten to know a young man that I have never had verbal communication with. I have learned how Willy says "yes" and how he say "no", how he loves the "mouse video" and how he loves girls. I have met Willy's Mom Kat and many other teachers at Jordan Valley School and I have learned how much they love their students or I should say their "kids". Jordan Valley is a magical place. Every few weeks I get to visit, work with EagleEyes and Willy and see my new friends. EagleEyes and OFOA have given me opportunities. The opportunity to meet wonderful service oriented people and the opportunity to make a difference.

Mike Carmody
EE Volunteer 

January 2011 Newsletter

Posted by Debbie Inkley on January 1, 2011

EE Changing Lives Women in Business Magazine

Posted by Debbie Inkley on November 3, 2010

2 Families Receive EagleEyes

Posted by Debbie Inkley on August 19, 2010

Danielle, London, Debbie and the Jugert Family

During this season of giving and thanks my family has received many blessings one of which was an EagleEyes system. We received this wonderful gift full of opportunities from a very special little girl named London Bowman. London and her amazing family were able to raise enough money for London's EagleEyes system as well as one for our son, Caleb. London and her mother Danielle have not only gifted us EagleEyes but also friendship.

She and the Opportunity Foundation of America (OFOA) are helping to change lives one of which is my sons. Our family is so thankful to have the Bowman family and the Foundation in our lives. OFOA is giving my son a chance to play and communicate when we thought he might never have that chance. Watching the excitement on Caleb's face is something my family will be able to share with him for a long time.

Gretchen Jungert Caleb's Mom

Elizabeth's Story

Posted by Debbie Inkley on March 9, 2010

4 Year Old Elizabeth

Elizabeth is 4 years old and has been using EagleEyes for over a year. The technology continues to dramatically change her life for the good. Elizabeth is now able to access her environment and show us just how amazingly smart and talented she is. EagleEyes gives Elizabeth the freedom she has been desperately looking for to help her communicate. She is now more active in her daily life. She smiles, laughs, cries, and engages everyone she meets. EagleEyes is giving Elizabeth the freedom to realize she can communicate with the world and the world will listen and respond to her.

March 2010 Newsletter

Posted by Debbie Inkley on March 3, 2010




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