PARADISE VALLEY, AZ - Eighteen-year-old Ben Mattinson sits down at the computer and begins to click through programs without using his hands. As his eyes dart across the screen, he's moving the cursor and typing.
He calls it "EyeWriter B 2.1," a program he created using existing programs to allow patients with Lou Gehrig's disease communicate using only their eyes.
"As it (Lou Gehrig's disease) progresses, patients will become more and more paralyzed to the point where eventually they might be able to only use their eyes," Mattinson said. "They won't have motor control over their hands and other body parts, they will have to be able to control it with their eyes, since they might only have eye movement left."
Mattinson, a student at Phoenix Country Day School in Paradise Valley, said similar programs can cost patients thousands of dollars, but his program will cost about $300.
"The point of the Eye Writer is its low cost eye tracking platform for people with ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease. It's much cheaper and really good for patients who can't afford this type of device," Mattinson told ABC15.
Last month Mattinson won the "First Future Innovator Award" for his software.
He is also now working with doctors at Barrow Neurological Institute to refine the software so that it can be tested with patients and hopefully become a reality for them.
"Just to see the types of things we've been working on as part of the robotics team, actually see that be applied to something that can be use to help people ... that's exciting to see it all come together," said Rob Mattinson, Ben's father.
The computer program not only allows patients to type, check email or surf the Web with their eyes, but they can also play computer games like chess.
As part of the award, Mattinson will get to meet and present his creation to a venture capital company in California with hopes of marketing it, all while he gets ready to attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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