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Eye tracking will help the paralyzed talk to the outside world

A sufferer of locked-in syndrome

Those affected by locked-in syndrome are effectively cut off from the outside world. They're paralyzed to the point where they can't move or speak -- in many cases, they might only have control over their eyes. Thankfully, technology might just use that remaining freedom to give these sufferers a voice. UC San Diego researchers are developing systems that use eye tracking for communication. One prototype, EyeHome, would have you navigating a phone-like interface by gazing at different parts of the screen. You'd look one way to dictate a message, or another to catch up on social networks. Other elements could include specialized e-book readers and even eye-guided musical instruments.

It's still early going. The ball only really got rolling after a scientist challenged his students to invent solutions last fall, and the UCSD research team just recently received $300,000 in funding to help make this effort a reality. Prototypes already exist, however, which suggests that locked-in patients may soon reclaim some of their independence.

[Image credit: AP Photo/Jessica Hill]