While systems allow users who are physically challenged to communication with twitching facial muscles, even those muscle movements are impossible for some people. However, a new setup offers a possible alternative by entering the ear.
Known as ‘Earswitch,’ a team led by Dr. Nick Gompertz is developing the technology at the UK University of Bath. It is primarily designed for “locked-in” users who are paralyzed and unable to talk.
At the center of the experimental system is a computer-connected silicone earpiece containing a small camera and light that is temporarily inserted in the ear canal communication of the patient.
The camera then monitors the tensor tympanic muscle of the middle ear – it is one of the littlest muscles in the body, and people that have lost control of most other muscles can thus still conceive of tension.
Such individuals may include victims of stroke or those with late-stage engine communication neuronal disease.
The user is able to view a virtual keyboard on a computer screen, on which the key ranges are highlighted sequentially. When the desired letter row is highlighted, the user selects it by tightening his tensor tympani muscle. The earpiece camera detects that motion of communication and causes the computer to choose that key line.
Next, the individual keys in the line are sequentially highlighted. Again, when the key is highlighted, the user selects the desired key by tensing the ear muscle. They can gradually “type” messages in this way. To speed up the process, a predictive text system displays complete words, which the user can also choose
How the Neural Conditions affect the communication
Now Gompertz and colleagues market Earswitch technology through a spin-off company, perhaps for use by unparalyzed users to communication who want to do tasks manually-free on a daily basis. They also conduct an online survey, open to and without neurological conditions for members of the communication public, to determine the proportion of the population that is able to voluntarily move their tensor tympani muscles.
Leave a Reply