As if being a professor of Computer Science at Boston College isn’t enough, Professor James Gips also likes to spend his spare time changing people’s lives.
No, really, Professor Gips does it every single day. Throughout the past ten years, Professor Gips has been developing something called the EagleEyes Project. The purpose of EagleEyes is “to help people with severe physical disabilities develop and be educated to their fullest by enabling them to access the computer.” Through five electrodes placed on the person’s head, an individual is capable of controlling a computer mouse by movements of the eyes. Furthermore, Professor Gips has also developed the Camera Mouse, which is similar to EagleEyes, but is controlled through movements of the head. It works through a webcam or camera attached to the computer. These technologies are used in many places, including right here at Boston College’s Campus School, located in Campion. The Campus School is a school for children and young adults ages 3-21 with multiple, severe disabilities and complex health care needs.
It may be hard to fully grasp the immensity of these developments, but imagine this: you are a parent of a child with severe disabilities. Your child cannot speak or move, and you feel as though all hope of communication is lost forever. It is like your child is trapped in his or her own body, and there is no way to reach out. Once EagleEyes and Camera Mouse were developed, numerous parents escaped from this devastating reality. Now, an individual can do anything from typing a message to telling a parent they love them, to graduating from college. These results are truly amazing, and HC BC had the pleasure of meeting with Professor Gips to learn more about these life-changing programs.
What initially made you want to develop this type of technology?
“Actually, we didn’t develop the technology to help people, we just developed the technology because we thought it was cool. EagleEyes was developed in the lab because we wanted to develop a system where we could control the mouse point through electrodes. It wasn’t until after we had developed the technology that we looked to see if it would be useful for anything? It was a year or two later when we decided that it might be useful for children with disabilities.”
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
“By far the most rewarding part of my job is helping people. I hope I help people in the classroom, in meeting BC students, and, of course, helping through these assisted technologies.”
Has there been a moment in particular when the importance of your developments really hit you?
“Almost from the beginning when we started working with children with profound disabilities I was very, very moved. The typical interaction I have with a parent is somebody calls up and says my son or my daughter has this condition, was in this terrible accident, can’t move anything, is locked in… but I know he’s in there. And other people don’t believe it. So just showing that there’s a person inside this individual. That just always moves me.”
If you are interested in learning more about EagleEyes, check out the website at eagleeyes.org! If you would be interested in downloading the Camera Mouse technology, please visit cameramouse.org. If you think you know someone who could benefit from the use of EagleEyes technology, please visit ofoa.net to learn more about your options. There will also be information available through the Campus School’s EagleEyes Committee during the Campus School Awareness week on April 8th through the 12th. Look for point drives in Mac, information sessions, and plenty of other activities!
Professor James Gips