Toy hackathon helps children with severe disabilities to communicate

  • October 21, 2022
Toy hackathon helps children with severe disabilities to communicate

Pradipta Biswas has led a first of its kind toy hackathon to help children with severe disabilities to communicate through eye-controlled interfaces.

A first of its kind toy hackathon has been organised by a Gates Cambridge Scholar to help children with severe disabilities communicate with the world.

Pradipta Biswas [2006], associate professor at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing and associate faculty at Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, is behind the hackathon that took place at the institute in October.

The aim was to help children with severe speech and motor impairment learn to use cyber physical systems and associated eye gaze controlled human robot interfaces in their education and rehabilitation.  It also helped researchers see what new uses the software could be put to. For example, teaching users with severe motor impairment to draw, paint and type using a low-cost robotic manipulator and personalised interface.

The hackathon was the first of its kind to be based around users of assistive technology. All the participants underwent training with software that has an eye gaze-controlled interface. 

The children used toys such as drones, robotic arms and remotely-controlled toy cars with a remote connection to a laptop which can read their eye movement. The event builds on research led by Pradipta which began in 2016 with work on creating virtual keyboards on screen that are controlled by eye movements through a laptop camera the recognises and interprets the direction in which the person is looking, using artificial intelligence.

The reason toys are used is to insert an element of playfulness into the process which encourages children to engage, something that has been particularly important due to the negative impact of Covid on learning.

Pradipta has been working with the India-EU ICT Standardisation Collaboration Project as part of the work.

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