A recurring theme here at Health Tech Insider is the question of alternative user interfaces for electronic devices. Due to injury, disease, or other disability, many people are not able to use the traditional mouse, keyboard, or touch pad inputs that are the common controls for computers and other devices. Perceptive Devices is a company that is developing a new alternative user interface.

Their system relies on software to create a hands-free way to control computers and other electronics. Their Smyle system uses facial recognition software to identify the user’s face. When the user smiles, the system recognizes this action and takes control of the mouse cursor. It then tracks head motion or eye gaze to move the mouse around the screen. The result is a hands-free way to control devices, without relying on speech or other inputs.

This approach could be a boon to those with temporary or permanent loss of hand movement, and could give paralyzed or bed-ridden patients a way to interact with devices. The system works with computer, laptop, tablets, and phones with user-facing cameras. It can also be adapted to head-mounted devices, such as augmented reality devices, which could lead to applications where the user’s hands are otherwise occupied, such as for surgeons in an operating room or technicians working to repair machinery in the field.