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‘Eye Conductor’ Helps the Physically Disabled Write Music With Facial Movements

This interactive design project helps the disabled gain access to creative expression.
March 6, 2016, 8:00pm

A physical disability can make it difficult to participate in creative activities many of us take for granted, especially when you don't have full use of your arms and hands. But now a design student has created a way for the physically handicapped to express themselves through music using only their eye movements, and the necessary tech costs little more than a hundred bucks.

For his final project at the Copenhagen Institute of Interactive Design, Andreas Refsgaard built the "Eye Conductor" using a $99 eye tracker and a basic webcam. As Refsgaard writes, "With Eye Conductor I wanted to push the boundaries of the interaction design by exploring how eye and face tracking technologies could be used for creative purposes."

The software allows users to build beats on different instruments, add effects like reverb, and move up and down octaves. Users can select notes or chords by "scrolling" through the interface with their gaze. And most importantly, the threshold for making selections can be adjusted depending on how limited a user's facial mobility might be.

Refsgaard developed his project with actual user research, visiting schools and homes for the disabled. He found that music was a common interest across the board, and that the software helped him establish bonds with even non-verbal people.

"For a lot of people with physical disabilities the lack of fine motor skills exclude them from producing music on traditional instruments…I believe that the ability to express oneself artistically should be available to all, regardless of physical disabilities or challenges," Refsgaard says.

Watch the video to see precisely how this impressive bit of programming works.