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The Ultramouse


The Ultramouse uses senors to track the movement of Henry Evans’ head, which allows him to control a cursor to send emails or watch TV without anything in his way.
Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News January 2015

Head- and eye-tracking devices can help increase mobility and independence, but what works for one person may not work for another.

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Head- and eye-tracking devices can help increase mobility and independence, but what works for one person may not work for another.

Henry Evans, 52, a Stanford University graduate, stroke victim and inspiration for Robots for Humanity, a group of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving people’s lives through technology, decided that his head-tracking device wasn’t working for him.

Like many others, Evans uses a head-tracking device to browse the Internet, send emails and watch TV. But Evans’ device, like normal head-tracking devices, came with limitations, including the fact that his screen had to be very close to his face for it to work.

Evans decided it was time to create a device that can track his head movements from across the room and give him the freedom to switch from the Internet to the TV with ease.

“I noticed my computer screen made my eyes tired, but my TV was too far away for my head tracker to work,” Evans says. “So I dreamed up Ultramouse.”

Nothing In The Way

He and his nephew, Henry Clever, 23, a graduate of the University of Kansas and mechanical engineering PhD student at New York University, decided to create a head-tracking device that’s easier to use.

“He wanted to be able to change channels on his TV or watch Netflix on a large screen … on the other side of his room so that way it wouldn’t obstruct his viewing angle,” Clever says.

Evans sketched out the plans for the Ultramouse in PowerPoint and gave them to his nephew.

“My uncle came up with the idea and … I made it work,” Clever says. “It seemed like a really cool idea, it seemed doable, so we just went from there.”

Clever and Evans made the Ultramouse a reality. Evans’ previous eye-tracking device had a “dot” on a pair of glasses and a camera that sat about 2 feet in front of his face. The Ultramouse allows Evans to have the screen much further away because it has more sensors to monitor the movement of his head.

“The Ultramouse has sensors behind and beside his head that monitor his head movements and then they turn the head movement into the cursor movement so that he doesn’t have anything in the way when he’s trying to watch TV,” Clever says.

Improving Lives

The Ultramouse isn’t available to the public yet, but could be in the future.

“It is still in development,” Evans says. “But we have big plans for it. Eventually we will try to license the designs to a manufacturer.”

Head-tracking devices can be used for more than just surfing the web. Evans says he can use his head-tracking device to operate other devices designed to help him in his daily life.

“Another device which has changed my life, and which I use frequently every day was developed by a group of students at the University of Pennsylvania and is called ROBOSCRATCH,” Evans says. “It is a robotic arm that clamps to my bedside table. I control it with my head-tracker and use it

to scratch my face [independently] anytime I want.”

The Ultramouse isn’t the only device Clever and Evans have built. They’re both continually working to find ways to improve people’s lives through technology with organizations such as Robots for Humanity.

“It is only one of several devices our group has built, which will change the lives of bedridden people forever,” Evans says of the Ultramouse.

Credit Uncle Henry

It’s very difficult to find a one-size-fits-all device because disability is so different, Clever says.

However, as members of Robots for Humanity and other organizations dedicated to using and creating new technology to improve people’s lives, Evans and Clever continue to create and improve technology. The devices, along with others, are chronicled on the Robots for Humanity website, r4h.org.

Clever credits his passion for improving people’s lives through technology to his uncle. He intends to finish his degree and find a job where he can continue to create devices like the Ultramouse.

“I’ve gotten involved with him and some of his friends to try to use robotics and other engineering forms to help people like him,” Clever says. “I think that it definitely motivated me to do what I want to do.”

 

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