Facial Gestures for Assistive Technologies

The School of Engineering and Digital Arts [EDA] together with the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust [EKHUFT] have embarked upon a new project with the potential to make a significant impact in the lives of many people with severe neuro-diasability who are no longer able to speak or interact with their environment using conventional assistive technologies.
The Facial Gestures project aims to develop new pattern recognition and computer vision technologies building on those currently used for head and eye tracking with webcams. The goal is to capture and interpret the intentions and messages from patients who cannot speak and only have the ability for very small movements of their head or parts of their face. The reliable detection of these small movements will be used to provide a means of controlling appropriate assistive technologies. This will then give the patient access to effective means of communication and to a greater level of control of their environment and hence of their lives.
This is a challenging project in terms of both technical and clinical requirements and necessitates new knowledge to be gained from the behaviour and limitations of patients in different circumstances. Drs Farzin Deravi and Konstantinos Sirlantzis from EDA and Drs Matthew Pepper (Head of Clinical and Rehabilitation Engineering, Medical Physics) and Mohamed Sakel (Director of Neurorehabilitation Unit) from the Kent and Canterbury Hospital will be working on this joint project that involves a close interaction between technical and clinical issues to seek practical working solutions.
The technology must be relatively cheap and able to adapt to various patient and environmental conditions to make it easy for use by patients and their carers. The joint funding from EKHUFT and EDA provides support for a PhD studentship and the cost of equipment, travel and consumables. It is hoped that the results of the project will be available for use by patients, carers and clinicians within three years.
This new initiative reflects the increasingly stronger medical research base developed by EDA to which it contributes as well as the strategic alliance between the University and the Hospital towards the development of state-of-the-art technology-based healthcare delivery.