How eye tracking technology can allow kids with CP to utilize almost all features of a computer using just their eyes

A University of Michigan graduate, Dr. Bruno Laeng, helped create eye tracking technology that allows paraplegics to communicate using i-pad type devices.  In fact, anyone who can use their eyes is able to communicate by using this device, called the Tobii.  The Tobii has opened doors for children who have limited or no use of their arms or legs and/or can’t speak.  In the last few years, advances in technology have created enormous opportunities for children with cerebral palsy, and the Tobii series gives children who are unable to speak a way to “talk” and communicate.  It enhances communication and gives freedom to children who have limited or no use of their limbs and/or voice.  Paraplegics are able to use the device, almost as if typing with their fingers.

The Tobii uses eye tracking and gaze interaction technology to determine what the child wants to do, and to allow the child to “speak.”  The Tobii is completely operated by the child’s eyes; it picks up the activity of the child’s cornea.  It works by using multiple cameras that allow the child to stare at a symbol, phrase or word and “activate” it, similar to the way a mouse click would activate an item on a computer screen.  The child is able to spell words, put together phrases, and convey ideas, making it very easy to participate in conversations.  This helps in building relationships, taking part in fun and educational activities, and, quite simply, being able to participate in aspects of life that others enjoy.

The Tobii allows a child to communicate with someone who is in the room, who is in the next room, or who is in a different country.  The child can listen to music and audio books, agree and disagree, and participate in her care.  The Tobii gives a child access to the internet so she can use Facebook and Skype, play games, and use educational tools.  In addition, the Tobii can allow the child to control things in the house, such as the television or air conditioner.  One of the most amazing features of eye tracking technology is that it can tell if a child becomes impaired, such as in the case of a head injury or adverse reaction to drugs.

Indeed, the Tobii helps give a voice to children who can’t speak, and it allows children who don’t have use of their hands to be able to interact in many more ways, helping to create a sense of control and greater independence.


The Tobii tracks the child’s eyes.  During the last ten years or so, eye tracking has gained recognition as being a good, direct tool for understanding behavior.  The brain automatically directs the eyes to information it is processing.  Therefore, watching what a person is looking at can give information about what the brain is processing.

The Tobii eye tracker uses near infrared microprojectors – as well as optical sensors and image processors – to examine a child’s eyes.  Mathematical models are used for precise calculations of the eyes’ position and gaze.

The Tobii tracks the following:

  • Who the user is. By tracking the user’s eyes, the Tobii can identify the user.
  • Gaze direction and gaze point.  This helps the system understand what is attracting the child’s attention.
  • Eye presence detection.  This is how the system finds the child’s eyes and knows when to dim the screen and turn the system off.
  • Pupil size and dilation.  Dilation of the pupils is an indicator of excitement.  When this data is combined with the patterns of eye movement as well as facial expressions, the system can tell what emotions and reactions the child is having.
  • Eye movement and patterns.

Dr. Laeng, a professor of cognitive neuropsychology, is one of the many scientists whose research was used in creating Tobii technology.  Some of Dr. Laeng’s research involves pupil diameter measurement.  His research has shown that pupil responses can give a lot of information about the intensity of a person’s mental activity, as well as changes in mental states.  Pupillary responses can give important information about a person’s perception and what items a person is giving the most attention to.


Cerebral palsy is a term used to describe a group of disorders that can leave children struggling with movement.  Some children are unable to use their arms or legs, and some children have difficulty with speech.  Cerebral palsy affects every child differently.  In general, it causes problems with movement, coordination and balance.  It is caused by an injury to the developing brain, which means that cerebral palsy can occur until a child is approximately three years of age.  Sometimes, however, cerebral palsy is not diagnosed until a child is about four or five years old.

In the last few years, there have been incredible advances in treatments and therapies for children with cerebral palsy.  Kids who previously were unable to walk are taking their first steps, thanks to aggressive, multi-dimensional physical therapy in combination with procedures, such as selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR).  Technological advances, such as the Tobii with eye tracking technology, can allow a child to speak and communicate using just her eyes.

There are many conditions that can occur during or near the time of delivery that, if not properly managed, can cause cerebral palsy.  Most often, these conditions involve oxygen deprivation in the baby.  Mismanaged conditions that can deprive a baby of oxygen include placental abruption, uterine rupture, umbilical cord prolapse, nuchal cord, brain bleeds caused by forceps or vacuum extractor use, and failure to recognize fetal distress on the fetal heart rate monitor.  When a baby is showing signs of distress, it means she is being deprived of oxygen and must be delivered very quickly.  Most of the time, a C-section delivery is the safest way to deliver a baby who is in distress.


Post 2014.03.17 ann arbor cerebral palsy lawyer 141500 5 original best law firm 2014 badgeThe attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have been helping children with cerebral palsy in Ann Arbor and throughout the nation for over two decades.  Jesse Reiter, the firm’s co-founder, has been focusing on birth injury cases his entire 25+ year career, and most of Jesse’s cases involve helping children who have cerebral palsy.  Jesse has won many awards for his advocacy of children, and he is currently recognized as being one of the best medical malpractice lawyers in America by U.S. News and World Report 2014, as well as one of the 10 Best Attorneys in Michigan by Super Lawyers magazine. Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers is also recognized as being one of the best law firms in the country by U.S. News and World Report 2014.


Cerebral palsy is a difficult area of law to pursue due to the complex nature of the disorder and the medical records that support it. The nationally recognized attorneys at ABC Law Centers have decades of experience in this area. To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with an experienced attorney.  We handle cases in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Washington, D.C. and throughout the nation.  We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case.  Email or call us at 888-419-2229.


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