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Technology allows disabled to turn ideas into sculpture #ArtTuesday

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Camera that tracks eye movement helps disabled design 3D sculptures. via oxford mail

A CHARLBURY-based charity has combined eye-gaze technology with video games to allow severely disabled people to create 3D sculptures.

SpecialEffect has spent the past seven years trying to change disabled people’s lives by using the technology to help them play computer games.

In 2013 it developed its unique sculpture-creating technique and in November its first models rolled off the production line in Banbury.

Although eye-gaze technology has been around for many years it was always used for more practical tasks like helping people speak.

A camera is attached to the computer and tracks the user’s eye movements, allowing them to select objects on screen in the same way that an able-bodied person would do with a computer mouse.

It was also used for conditions such as locked-in syndrome, where paralysed patients are unable to speak and use their eyes to look at words and letters, which are then ‘spoken’ by a computer.

But SpecialEffect founder Mick Donegan has connected the technology to a video game where digital sculptures can be designed.

Where able-bodied people would use a hand-held controller to do this, eye-gaze technology extends the activity to those with physical disabilities.

Designs are then sent to Mondelez, in Banbury, and turned into real sculptures using printers.

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People taking part have made sculptures such as dragons, dinosaurs and monsters created entirely from their own imaginations.

Mr Donegan said he was delighted with how the technology changed people’s lives.

The 61-year-old former deputy head of a special school said: “The sculpture idea came into my head because as a charity we try to help children with disabilities to play video games, draw and so on.

“It means a huge amount to people with physical disabilities because they have all this desire to play and create art and all of a sudden you are giving them a chance to make all these ideas in their heads real. People who cannot use their hands are able to make real objects.”

Mr Donegan added: “I do not think this has been done anywhere else.

“It allows people with disabilities to play with families and friends at home in a way that they could not before.

“People have really taken to it.

“We have a girl called Becky who comes here and she designed 19 different sculptures, each taking about two hours each – it is incredibly special.”

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