EyeControl has developed a platform that enables patients with illnesses and injuries preventing them from speaking to communicate using intuitive eye movements.
Every year, millions of patients around the world find themselves hospitalized in intensive care units with no ability to verbally communicate with their surroundings. Hospitalization, already an unpleasant experience, can become particularly traumatic for seriously injured patients, those on ventilation, individuals with muscular atrophy, and complex chronic patients. While their intellectual and cognitive abilities remain intact, the lack of motor abilities deprives them of the ability to communicate, effectively trapping them in their own bodies.
Communication barriers can give rise to feelings of frustration, helplessness, and profound vulnerability. These emotions can negatively impact the treatment’s progress and may contribute to the development of delirium—a neuropsychiatric syndrome marked by a decline in the patient’s consciousness and alertness, extreme confusion, impaired cognitive function, heightened anxiety, and occasionally, hallucinations. Delirium is highly prevalent among ICU patients, with 30-50% of all intensive care patients and 60-80% of ventilator-assisted patients in intensive care experiencing delirium during their hospitalization. Delirium events can manifest within hours to several days and may persist for several weeks. Those who undergo delirium during hospitalization face an elevated risk of enduring long-term cognitive or mental impairment. Delirium places a substantial economic strain on the US healthcare system, estimated at $38-$150 billion annually.
The ability of patients to communicate with medical staff and family members during their hospital stay has been shown in studies to enhance medical treatment effectiveness, maintain patient alertness, situational awareness, and significantly alleviate the occurrence of delirium. The existing eye movements-based communication solutions require the use of a computer or tablet, involving an extensive training period and a complex calibration process, making them generally non-portable. Consequently, these limitations confine their use to specific situations, leaving users unable to communicate during crucial moments such as waking up from anesthesia, seeking assistance in the middle of the night or in the shower, and when they are outdoors.
A wearable and portable system developed by the Israeli start-up EyeControl empowers patients with conditions preventing speech to communicate effortlessly using intuitive eye movements. Initially designed to meet the communication needs of patients with muscular dystrophy (ALS), the system has transformed into a comprehensive communication tool, allowing users to communicate seamlessly, 24/7, whether they are hospitalized, in rehabilitation settings, or at home.
Enabling face-to-face communication, this screen-free system is composed of a wireless head-mounted device. Through voice indications projected from a speaker positioned beside the ear, users can audibly navigate menus and make selections via eye movements, like blinking. The infrared camera on the unit captures these eye movements, which are then translated into speech using artificial intelligence technology. With the ability to support audio in one language and dynamically output in different languages, the system addresses language barriers, enabling communication in environments where the patient’s language might not be spoken.
Unlike typical eye-based communication systems, which use eye movement to “point” at icons on an external screen, EyeControl’s advanced technology regards the eye as a type of joystick, resulting in more accurate outcomes. The device is user-friendly, offering unprecedented flexibility by allowing users to define, based on their preferences and motor abilities, the eye gestures for communication. Since menus are directly played into the user’s ear, the system ensures privacy, in contrast to other systems that display navigation on an external screen visible to all. The system operates without requiring calibration, detecting pupil movements even in complete darkness. This capability allows for communication even when the patient wakes up in the middle of the night and needs to call for help.
The system is FDA approved, meets the European CE standard, holds AMAR, ISO, and MAKAT certifications, and complies with the HIPAA/GDPR standards. In 2017, EyeControl was recognized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as one of the most life-changing technological systems. In 2020, it received the European Council for Innovation award in the field of COVID-19, securing combined funding from private capital and grants. Additionally, EyeControl was honored with the Genesis Prize for its substantial contribution to the treatment of COVID-19. The system has also gained approval for insurance reimbursement from public healthcare systems in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel.