Eyefree Assisting Communication

  • Miguel García G... profile
    Miguel García G...
    26 July 2019 - updated 9 months ago
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Country: 
Israel

About the innovator

EyeControl was established in 2016 by founders, who have personal connections to ALS and locked-in individuals. They joined together on a mission to give locked-in people the ability to communicate.
Worldwide, there are more than 1.2M locked-in individuals affected by conditions such as ALS, stroke, and traumatic brain injury. They possess full cognitive abilities but are unable to move or speak; and, therefore rely on eye movements to communicate and control their environment.
EyeControl is the first wearable, screenless, assistive communication device. AI-powered eye-tracking technology enables locked-in individuals and ventilated patients -- who can't speak -- the ability to communicate using only eye movements, anywhere and anytime

As a young company of only three years, EyeControl has achieved monumental advancements and successfully propelled the device to early CE marking, FDA listing and ISO certification, facilitating global market penetration.
For individuals that possess cognition but lack the physical ability to articulate themselves verbally or otherwise, the EyeControl device has life-altering impact. From the most basic function of triggering the alert signal, to reopening paths of meaningful communication with loved ones and medical practitioners, the EyeControl is revolutionizing and disrupting the assistive technology market internationally. The product offers solutions that previous devices haven’t achieved, thereby impacting patients, who are free to communicate day and night:
One of EyeControl’s founders, Shay Rishoni (1966-2018), represented the Israel NGO for ALS patients. In addition to changing the world for patients and their families by restoring communication, EyeControl’s impact model involves the donation of a portion of profits to the NGO funding ALS research.
The EyeControl is recognized and fully subsidized by government health authorities, including the Israel national “Health Basket”, the UK NHS Supply Chain and US Medicare/Medicaid. More countries are expected to follow suit as EyeControl gains international recognition for providing an ideal communication solution for locked-in patients.
Following operations in Israel and in the UK, the company is slated to commence activity in the USA during the second half of 2019, including the launch of a clinical trial at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA. 
The EyeControl improves quality of life and restores the voice of a community that cannot speak for themselves. The company is democratizing access to assistive technologies, making them easier to use, and providing extensive benefits to the Locked-in community.  

Eyecontrol on Twitter

What is the innovation

In the framework of the EU funded project, the company completed development of the first EyeControl device; from the original prototype/Alpha version, to a product ready for Beta sites. During this process, we successfully honed the device’s eye tracking attributes and enabled it with cloud service connectivity to support remote customization.

While constructing the EyeControl’s architecture, two major aspects were decided upon: 1. Basing the eye-tracking on Machine Learning, as opposed to classic image processing, which eliminates the calibration process and enables the device to accurately operate with various pupil types in an array of lighting conditions. 2. Developing a website portal for full customization of the device to users’ preferences and abilities, including support in multiple languages.

EyeControl worked with local patient communities to develop the device algorithms and product design concept. At the Israel ALS awareness day, we held a booth, where hundreds of family members, patients and friends contributed to data collection.

We opted to use progressive web apps (PWA) technology, which allows our applications to work on numerous platforms. PWA enables code to be written once and implemented on any web browser regardless of the device (Windows, Android, IOS, etc.). This technology also allows offline application use when not connected to the web.

Using Human Interface Device (HID) protocol, we enabled the device to control Smartphones and computers. The connected device treats the EyeControl as a regular Bluetooth controller, so the user can assign 1-5 gestures to perform different actions or use it as a regular joystick to move the cursor on the screen.

Integrating with state-of-the-art third-party software like Grid 3 allows users to fully control their laptop or Windows tablet using only their eyes. From these connected devices they can also access environmental controls, which enable operation of televisions, air conditioners, smart home appliances and more.

EyeControl also analyzed the main components required to upscale the existing system architecture to support the hospital ICU vertical market. API was developed for integration with existing hospital systems, such as the nurse’s station; this allows temporarily locked-in hospital patients to communicate and call for medical staff.

One of the company’s first steps was to develop questionnaires defining hospitals’ unique needs, in order to design the initial architecture of the product accordingly. The company conducted interviews with key leadership from various hospitals to learn more about their facility status.

During our research, we consulted with an Israeli company that develops hospital bed sensors. They are guiding us in defining the software architecture, operating system and network system, which will best integrate into existing hospital infrastructure without compromising the security and privacy of patients, while ensuring ease of use for the operator.

EyeControl designed the hospital requirements document and developed the product for the medical facilities environment, while visiting potential sites in Israel, the UK and the USA to learn more about sector needs in the auspices of the EU project. 

Out of the lab. Into the market

As a young company of only three years, EyeControl has achieved monumental advancements and successfully propelled the device to early CE marking, FDA listing and ISO certification, facilitating global market penetration.

The EyeControl is recognized and fully subsidized by government health authorities, including the Israel national “Health Basket”, the UK NHS Supply Chain and US Medicare/Medicaid. More countries are expected to follow suit as EyeControl gains international recognition for providing the ideal communication solution for locked-in patients.

Following operations in Israel and in the UK, the company is slated to commence activity in the USA during the later half of 2019, including the launch of a clinical trial at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA. 

Prior to commercialization, careful analysis was conducted to confirm the market size and geographic need for our solution. Consulting with relevant NGOs and KOLs reaffirmed the demand for the EyeControl in global markets. Our research is an ongoing process to ensure that we stay informed of new trends and any major shifts in the market. Developing our commercialization plan helped us narrow down key factors in product dissemination, including understanding the expectations of our market stakeholders. This will assist in keeping our business and marketing efforts on track.

We developed an initial marketing plan for 2019-2020 to include an awareness campaign, product endorsement from KOLs, case studies and user testimonials. Our website was expanded to provide support and training material as well as access to personal portals for customizing the EyeControl to user needs and preferences. The company continues engaging with relevant professionals to gain their interest and support. We also continue to maintain an active social media presence and inform our audience of news and developments via our monthly newsletter. The company developed the commercialization plan in collaboration with Orily Pratt, a coach employed via the SME program.

Benefits of participation in Horizon 2020

The main objective of the SME-2 proposal was to reduce the time to market and scale up EyeControl to reach the stage of a market ready innovative product, going from current TRL6 to desired TRL9.

Throughout the first year of participation in the Horizon 2020 program, the company finalized the development of the EyeControl device and successfully completed the necessary steps for achieving regulatory standards for CE marking, FDA and ISO 13485 for medical devices.

In parallel, the company completed development of software algorithms that enable the product to work with every patient without the need for calibration. This was done using Deep Learning algorithms, as opposed to classic image processing algorithms.

Additionally, the company developed the product business model and Go-to-Market in two distinct market segments:

1. Home Care Market: The company worked with the UK government to include the device in the NHS supply chain and in parallel worked towards including the product in the Israel national “Health Basket”. Moreover, the EyeControl received necessary reimbursement codes for the US Medicare and Medicaid programs. The company also conducted site visits to the Atlanta Shepherd Center, specializing in spinal cord and brain injury rehabilitation, in order to include the device in the facility’s beta site.
2. Facilities Market: A clinical trial commenced in the ICU of Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center - Ichilov Hospital, during which the company successfully built protocols for the upcoming clinical trial at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, USA.

The EyeControl is currently displayed in a yearlong exhibition at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation and was chosen to be presented among the most important and promising technology ideas developed in Israel. Additionally, the device is featured at the Jewish Museum & Tolerance Center in Moscow, Russia, granting further exposure and publicity to the company and product.

This innovation was funded via H2020 project Eyecontrol

Team behind the innovation

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