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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fascinating! Artist's Skills Restored for $50 in Parts

“Art is a tool of empowerment and social change, and I consider myself blessed to be able to create and use my work to promote health reform, bring awareness about ALS and help others.” ~Tony Quan, aka Tempt One

From Quest Magazine Online -

A Los Angeles graffiti artist with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), was the inspiration behind a low-cost, eye-controlled drawing device called the Eyewriter. For about $50 in simple components, Tony Quan (aka “Tempt 1”) has been able to resume creating his artwork for the first time in more than six years.

'Hackers and artists' join forces

Quan learned he had ALS in 2003. A well-known graffiti-style artist and social activist, in the 1980s Quan had created a distinctive form of graffiti-type art.

Quan’s disease progressed rapidly, until all he could move were his eyes. His career came to an abrupt stop and would have stayed stopped had his case not come to the attention of several people from across the country, loosely described as “a bunch of hackers and artists.”

Plans and software are free

The device consists of cheap eyeglass frames, some wire ties and copper wire, several LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and a micro video camera. Free, do-it-yourself instructions for building one can be found on the Eyewriter Web site. The hardware is used in conjunction with original computer software, also written by the Eyewriter team. The software is open source (free), too.

The Eyewriter tracks Quan’s eye movements and permits him to plot points on a computer monitor. From the points he can create letters and words that he can fill in with colors, render in 3-D if he wants, and add other features.

Like air for a drowning man

The tech team built the Eyewriter at no cost to Quan. When they first fitted it on him, in the hospital bed where he spends all of his time, he was overwhelmed. After tentatively trying the equipment out, spelling his father’s name, Ron, and seeing it projected on the wall of his room, he’s quoted as saying (by communicating slowly through an eye gaze alphabet selection device) that he felt like a person who has been held underwater for 5 minutes, then mercifully brought up to breathe.

“I can’t even begin to describe how good it feels to be able to rock styles again,” Quan told a friend. Since putting the Eyewriter to work, he has participated in art shows in venues as diverse as Norway, Vienna and Tokyo.


  1. That's pretty amazing!

  2. Kevin Toppenberg, MDMay 4, 2010 at 3:30 PM

    If that were made as a medical device, it would cost $5,000 minimum. Great link.


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