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Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture EECS News@WSU 2014

Helping ALS Patients

ALS team with Dave BakkenA computer senior design class is working with Team Gleason to develop more accurate and affordable eye tracking software to help improve the lives of patients with ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a terminal neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons, causing patients to lose muscle function. Patients gradually lose their ability to move or speak. Since patients can still move their eyes, advances in eye-tracking technology allow them to operate computer programs, including text to speech software. This eye-tracking technology is the person’s last link to communication—the key to a social or productive life. But it is very expensive.

Led by Professor Dave Bakken, a group of computer science students is developing open-source, predictive eye-tracking software that is more affordable and allows patients to type faster than existing software. The students are putting the software on PUPIL, a 3-D printed set of glasses that connects to a computer to translate eye movement into computer action. By May, they should have prototypes and, potentially, a tablet that ALS patients could test.

The students are working with Team Gleason, a nonprofit organization that helps raise awareness about ALS and provides support to individuals with neuromuscular diseases or injuries. Steve Gleason, a WSU alumnus and former New Orleans Saints football player, is living with ALS.

Hardware and software for the project so far has come from generous donations from alumni and the team’s advisors. If you would like to find out more about giving to this project, please contact Devon Anderson, director of development, at 509-335-2197.

For more information about the project, please visit For more information on Team Gleason and the Team Gleason House for Innovative Living, visit