Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Computer Science Essay

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This chapter discusses the background of the problem, problem statement, objective of the study, scope of the project, significance of the project, and chapter overview.

1.1 Problem Background

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and the spinal cord to muscles throughout the body. Progressive degeneration of motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their deaths. When motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in advanced stages of disease may become totally paralyzed.

As motor neurons degenerate, they can no longer send impulses to the muscle fibers that normally result in muscle movement. Early symptoms of ALS often include increasing muscle weakness, especially involving the arms and legs, speech, swallowing or breathing. (The ALS Association, 2008)

Imagine having a fully-functional brain trapped within a non-functioning body. The brain would be conscious and aware of its surroundings; it could think and process stimuli, but it would be unable to translate thought into action. ALS is a rare disorder that results in just that; all of the body's voluntary muscles, with the exception of those that control eye movement, become completely paralyzed.

1.2 Problem Statement

People with ALS have trouble communicating with other people as they lose their ability to move and speak. Simple commands such as desire to eat and short conversation are hard to understand, making them feel isolated and may cause deep depression. With the use of their eyes, it is possible for others to understand, given that there is an assistant or a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or speech therapist that can help translate their eye movements.

Many products and solutions have existed in order to address this problem. Electronic voice synthesizer is among the popular ones which helps ALS patients such as Stephen Hawking¿½a famous English theoretical physicist and cosmologist¿½to communicate by using text to speech technology. (Hawking, 2007) It uses a text-to-speech (TTS) system that converts normal language text into speech. (Allen, Hunnicutt, & Kla, 1987) However, the problem with this technique is there are differences between natural variations in speech and the nature of automated techniques for processing into waveforms. For instance, the challenge is deciding whether "read" should be pronounced as "red" implying past tense, or as "reed" implying present tense. Numbers are often a problem as well. Should ¿½423¿½ be read as ¿½four hundred and twenty three¿½ or vice versa? The synthesizer hardware required is also often expensive.

Another solution is a system where communication is based on eye blink. Eye blink is adopted as a switch to tell judging patient's intention by using several image processing. A list of intentions is displayed on the PC monitor; each intention is displayed with an adequate time interval. (Goldstein, 2008)

The problems with these solutions are it is either expensive or hard to understand. Therefore, an eye tracking headset that translates the patients¿½ eye movements into text and simple commands may overcome these problems.

1.3 Research Objectives

As a guide to successfully complete this research, the objectives are determined and defined as follows:

a. To develop a prototype of an eye tracking headset.

b. To develop an on screen keyboard/command application that will interact together with the headset.

1.4 Scope and Limitation of the Research

The project is executed to patients who suffer from ALS disease or similar. In particular, the research focuses on patients who are at the stage of ALS where they are unable to move completely except for their eye. The eye tracking headset has several design limitations that were meant to emphasize low-cost and ease of construction over other aspects of performance, robustness and appearance. The software used to interact with the eye tracking headset will only focus on forming texts and simple commands.

1.5 The Significance of the Study

The medical literature contains numerous articles documenting the issues with ALS patients. This study6 will bring great significance and contributions to many parties especially to patients themselves, future researchers and doctors. Since this research is conducted to enable ALS patients to communicate, future researchers can add new function or enhance the system by allowing other forms of communication such as facial expression or by making the current way of communication between patients and other people more seamless.

Furthermore, this study is beneficial to aid doctors to communicate and monitor their patients easily. When interaction between both parties can be understood clearly, this will reduce any difficulty that would have arisen.

1.6 Organisation of the Thesis

This project paper consists of different chapters

This chapter has introduced the project¿½s background, problem statement, objectives, significance, and the scope of the project and the overview of the report.

The next section, the "Literature Review" will help to place this project within the wider context and justify its presence within a particular field of study. It consists of introduction, definition of terminology related to the project, discussion and critically evaluating past and current research in the project area and identify gap in the literature of the field of study that is intended to fill, and the conclusion.

The following chapter, the "Project Methodology" describes the methodology and phases involved in the project, starting from the first phases, which is planning and problem identification, to the last phase; documentation.

The following chapter, "Results and Findings" will describe the analysis and the results and discuss the outcomes that has been performed and accomplished.

This last chapter, "Conclusion" contains comments and recommendations that will give the reader the concise summary of all the project¿½s major outcomes. The conclusion will also include recommendations for further work to be carried out where appropriate.

The "References and Bibliography" section contains information obtained from books or journals must be referred to in the text by the author last name and followed by the year of publication.

"Appendices" comprises of part of the coding that were developed for the project¿½s application.



2.0 Introduction

This chapter consists of definition of terminology related to the project and a brief description of several similar past and current researches in the project area and review of gap in the literature of the field of study that is intended to fill, and the conclusion.

2.1 Definition of Terminology

2.1.1 Virtual Keyboard (On-Screen Keyboard)

An onscreen keyboard generally appears on the same display used for programs and will remain permanently visible. The keyboard can then be accessed using the pointer device. In the simplest sense this means a standard mouse, but through the use of alternative mouse systems or switches a large number of disabilities can be addressed. Alternative pointing systems include foot/toe mouse, touchpad, trackballs, infrared/camera (optical mouse) and sip ¿½n¿½ puff switches. (Public Service Commision of Canada, 2007)

2.1.2 Eye Tracking

Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze or the motion of an eye relative to the head. An eye tracker is a device for measuring eye positions and eye movement.

Eye trackers measure rotations of the eye in one of several ways, but principally they fall into three categories.

One type uses an attachment to the eye, like a special contact lens with a mirror or a sensor embedded magnetic field, and the movement of attachment is measured with the assumption that it does not slip significantly as the eye rotates. Measurement with fitting contact lens has a very sensitive recording of eye movements, and magnetic search coils are the method of choice for researchers studying the underlying dynamics and physiology of eye movements.

The second broad category uses non-contact, optical method for measuring eye movements. Light, usually IR, reflected in the eyes and feel with a video camera or some other optical sensor designed specifically. This information is then analyzed to extract eye rotation from changes in the reflection. Video based eye trackers typically use the corneal reflection and the center of the pupil as to detect features from time to time. A more sensitive type of eye tracker, the dual-Purkinje eye tracker uses reflections from the front of the cornea and the back of the lens as features to track. A more sensitive method is to image features from inside the eye, such as retinal blood vessels, and follow these features as the eye rotates. Optical methods, particularly those based on video recordings, are widely used and preferred to gaze tracking for non-invasive and inexpensive. (Crane & Steele, 1985)

The third category uses potential measured using electrodes placed around the eyes. It is the origin of the stationary electric field, which can also be detected in total darkness, and if the eyes are closed. It can be produced by the dipole model to the positive pole of the cornea and the negative pole of the retina. The electrical signals that can be derived using two pairs of electrode contacts placed on the skin around the eyes are called Electrooculogram (EOG).

EOG is a technique for measuring the resting potential of the retina. It is a very light-weight approach that, in contrast to current video-based eye trackers, only requires very low computational power, works under different lighting conditions and can be implemented as an embedded, self-contained wearable system. (Bulling, Roggen, & Tr¿½ster, 2009) It is thus the method of choice for measuring eye movement in mobile daily-life situations and REM phases during sleep.

2.2 Eye Tracking Related Researches and Products

In developing this study, we have found several researches that have similar study to this topic. These products and previous studies were useful to us as guidelines and provided a lot of details to help accomplish all of the objectives.

2.2.1 Eye-Gaze Response Interface Computer Aid (ERICA)

Eye-Gaze Response Interface Computer Aid (ERICA) is a device that tracks eye movement to enable hands-free computer operation. From the features of the current portrait, the interface calculates the approximate location of the user's eye-gaze on the computer screen. The computer then executes commands associated with the menu option currently displayed at this screen location. In this way, the user can interact with the computer, run applications software, and manage peripheral devices-all simply by looking at an appropriate sequence of menu options displayed on the screen. (T.E., White, Martin, Reichert, & Frey, 1989) The device can also deliver a synthetic voice output. The technology can allow users to speak, write e-mail, surf the internet, create documents, or play games through eye movement alone. No keyboard or mouse is needed. (Reitan, 2005)

2.2.2 Eyegaze Edge

With the Eyegaze Edge people with physical disabilities can do many things with their eyes that they would otherwise do with their hands. Simply by looking at control keys displayed on a computer monitor screen, the user can perform a broad variety of functions including speech synthesis, environmental control, sending emails, browsing the Internet, playing games, typing, and controlling most PC and MAC computers.

It is a communication and control system for people with complex physical disabilities. The system is operated entirely with the eyes. By looking at control keys displayed on a screen, a person can synthesize speech, control his environment (lights, call bells, etc.), type, run computer software, operate a computer mouse, and access the Internet and e-mail. Eyegaze Edge Systems are being used to write books, attend school and enhance the quality of life of people with disabilities all over the world. (LC Technologies, Inc., 2009)

2.2.3 Opengazer

Opengazer is an application that uses an ordinary webcam to estimate the direction of the user¿½s gaze. This information can then be passed to other applications. For example, used in conjunction with Dasher, opengazer allows writing with eyes. Opengazer aims to be low-cost software alternative to commercial hardware-based eye trackers. (Nel, 2009)

2.2.4 A Single Camera Eye-Gaze Tracking System with Free Head Motion

This paper describes the design, implementation and evaluation of an eye-gaze tracking system that meets key requirements as described in the introduction. The single camera, multiple glint system achieves the accuracy claimed in the presence of free head motion within the field of view of the camera. Over various combinations of hardware configurations and subjects the best accuracy achieved with the eye away from the calibration. System accuracy is highest at the calibrated position and degrades slightly as the head is moved away. (Hennessey, Noureddin, & Lawrence, 2006)

2.2.5 A Communication System for ALS Patients Using Eye Blink

The purpose of the research is to design a communication system for ALS patients who have difficulty in using their hands and mouth. In the proposed system, eye blink is adopted as a switch to tell judging patient's intention by using several image processing. A list of intentions is displayed on the PC monitor; each intention is displayed with an adequate time interval. The patient can select the candidate intention by blinking his/her eye. (Takeshita, Uchibori, Mizukami, Satoh, Tanaka, & Uchikado, 2003)

2.2.6 Eye-Writing Communication for Patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

The eye-writing method predefines a symbol set containing symbols with distinct writing traces. A user of this method rotates his or her eye balls to "write" a symbol according to its designated writing trace. Meanwhile, the eye movement is detected using a suitable technique such as the electroculography, which measures voltage differences on the skin around the user's eyes. Distinct features of the acquired eye-movement signals are extracted in order to determine which symbol, among those in the symbol set, the user's eyes have just written. An eye-writing system has been implemented in this study. Tests on subjects with no known disabilities have been conducted and the performance has been evaluated. The study found that eye-writing system is potentially useful for facilitating communication of sever ALS patients who have lost most of their oral speaking and handwriting abilities. (Tsai & Chen, 2009)

2.3 Conclusion

This chapter briefly reviews all related and required literatures, which are needed for the study. It focuses on the similarities and differences of the system to earlier research. These similarities and the differences of our research compared to others described in table below.

Eclipse is a multi-language software development environment comprising an integrated development environment (IDE) and an extensible plug-in system. It is written mostly in Java and can be used to develop applications in Java and, by means of various plug-ins, other programming languages including Ada, C, C++, COBOL, Perl, PHP, Python, Ruby (including Ruby on Rails framework), Scala, and Scheme. The IDE is often called Eclipse ADT for Ada, Eclipse CDT for C/C++, Eclipse JDT for Java, and Eclipse PDT for PHP.

Official site: Netbeans IDE 6.9.1

NetBeans is both a platform framework for Java desktop applications, and an integrated development environment (IDE) for developing with Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, Ruby, Groovy, C, C++, Scala, Clojure, and others.

The NetBeans IDE is written in Java and runs everywhere where a JVM is installed, including Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and Solaris. A JDK is required for Java development functionality, but is not required for development in other programming languages.

The NetBeans Platform allows applications to be developed from a set of modular software components called modules. Applications based on the NetBeans platform (including the NetBeans IDE) can be extended by third party developers.

Using the freely available Camera Mouse 2011 to interact with the glasses, user can control the mouse control and navigate the computer. From its website, ¿½Camera Mouse is a program that allows you to control the mouse pointer on a Windows computer just by moving your head. The program was developed to help people with disabilities use the computer. The main audience for this program is people who do not have reliable control of a hand but who can move their head. People with Cerebral Palsy, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, Traumatic Brain Injury, various neurological disorders use this program and its predecessors to run all types of computer software. Camera Mouse works as a mouse replacement system for Windows computers so it should work with just about any application program. For example people use Camera Mouse with entertainment programs, education programs, communication programs, web browsers, and so on Camera Mouse works best with application programs that require only a mouse and a left click and that do not have tiny targets. It's easier to use Camera Mouse with application programs that do not require extreme accuracy.¿½ (Gips, 2010)