Patent Issued for System to Communicate via Facial Expressions

Barron Associates’ employees Alec Bateman and Michael DeVore were recently awarded Patent No. 9,465,981 for a system that allows people to communicate through a sequence of facial expressions. The initial application is a tool for ALS patients, who often suffer paralysis and lose the ability to speak, providing them with the ability to summon help and communicate requests to their caregivers. Patients operate the system by simply blinking their eyes in a distinctive pattern. This capability can benefit many other patient populations, such as victims of stroke or spinal cord injury, who struggle with basic communication but retain ocular motor control.

Previously available assistive communication devices are either highly intrusive, such as computerized glasses and other devices that must be worn on the face, or require careful positioning of the patient, such as eye gaze trackers that must be placed directly in front of the face. In contrast, Barron Associates’ design provides a highly reliable, always available method of communication that uses unobtrusive infrared cameras, located away from the patient’s bed, and a computer system that monitors 24 hours a day to assist with communication needs. Development of the system is sponsored by the National Institute of Nursing Research.