Looking for some feel good news during this unrelenting winter we’re having? Need a heartwarming story to warm you up after all of the snow? Cue Dan Bacher and the Speak Your Mind Foundation, who are harnessing the power of the Microsoft Surface to give a voice to those who are otherwise unable to communicate.
Bacher was working as an engineer at BrainGate, a collaborative project between Brown University and Mass General Hospital, when he shifted his attention to developing the Speak Your Mind Foundation. A nonprofit organization based in Providence, RI, the foundation creates, distributes, and supports communication technologies that help people with neurological injuries and diseases. Just because someone cannot use their voice does not mean they cannot share their personality with the world and speak their mind!
So what, or should I say who, inspires Bacher to take on this challenge? Someone like Cathy, a woman who was left paralyzed and mute after a stroke 16 years ago (watch Cathy’s story here). While Cathy owns expensive and advanced equipment to help her communicate, the technology is unreliable and crashes far too frequently, leaving her trapped within her own body. The foundation likens this to using a broken smart phone – imagine your smartphone crashing every hour, leaving you disconnected from the world. How long would you put up with the old phone before finding an alternative solution? Technologies developed by the Speak Your Mind Foundation are this alternative for Cathy and others similar to her.
Part of the reason why Bacher’s technology is so brilliant is that it is simple in many ways (though it does feature custom programs developed by the foundation’s brilliant engineers) and accessible to far more people than traditional technologies. By securing a Microsoft Surface tablet to a wheelchair and running a program that tracks head movements through the tablet’s camera, communication is restored and quality of life is improved. But this is only one of the projects that the organization is perfecting. The Speak Your Mind Foundation boasts three life-changing technologies (plus several others in the works!) to support people with differing communication needs.
While I would love to continue on for pages on the amazing work Bacher and the Speaker Your Mind Foundation are doing, take a look for yourself. Explore their website to learn about their different projects and watch this video clip that shows the technology in action. It is truly remarkable!