EyeSkills Newsletter/Update 06.02.2019

Hi there!

The last couple of weeks have been really busy (as always).

We’re in love

It started off positively with a official Letter of Recommendation from the international Open Knowledge Foundation  arriving by snail mail.  They are are supporting EyeSkills both morally, and in helping open doors.

…and we’re getting creative

Another great piece of news is that we were officially accepted into the first Berlin HACKademy, which starts at the beginning of March.  They are assembling volunteer engineers and design students to help us work on …

…building an ultra-low-cost eye observing VR headset

It’s going to be crucial to have some form of camera objectively observing what the eye is doing while training.  There is nothing out there which can do this at a price most people can afford. The price span is roughly $400-$10,000+ dollars for existing solutions.

We’ve spent months (and things are hotting up now) working on a patent-free design which can deliver the simple kind of eye observations we need, for well under $100, including assembly.   I think we’ve figured out a really excellent way to go ultra-low cost using off the shelf endoscopic camera components, larger VR lenses, and using the participant’s phone for power and vision processing.

At the moment, with the help of Moritz, Lukas and Fabian, we’re making and testing prototypes, trying out different cameras, and all the while Rene is stubbornly and heroically hammering away at making android recognise and play with USB UVC OTG cameras – something Google has failed miserably to implement in a sensible way.

Here are some pictures of early prototype:

…while we start to look for more money to keep this thing going!

I applied for the FutureSAX “Innovation in der Gesundheitswirtschaft” event in Dresden and was accepted to give a short pitch next week.

Community research should stay free and creative, but packaging, advertising, delivering and supporting the results for millions of people requires a financially self-supporting organisation.   If you are interested in helping build or fund that organisation, get in touch.

Some video tutorials

Alternating strabism is a really interesting category of Lazy Eye which needs more exploration.  First I put together a quick video explaining how to add new assets to better explore what happens within the “conflict zone” of somebody with alternating strabismus.

After feedback from Fabian (join the discussion here https://chat.eyeskills.org/channel/alternatingstrabismusapp) , I realised that we need to go further, to redesign the asset and add dynamic head tracking to control the position of something like a luminance panel… I’m just working on implementing this in code. Here’s a video explaining the way I wish to proceed :

…welcome to…

Randy (from BioCity) has joined us in the #legal-medical channel on RocketChat.   Hi Randy! It’ll be good to have you around 🙂

…some interesting meetings have taken place…

Thanks to the Vision Therapy center in Gohlis (Leipzig).  We sat together for a few hours last week and I took them through EyeSkills, discussed some of their edge-cases, and generally swapped ideas an insights.  They are excited about the project, particularly home-training, and will support us where they can (particularly in the realms of providing external and independent validation/measurement of process/non-progress made by participants).

…some interesting meetings coming up…

I’m particularly looking forward to travelling up to Berlin with Moritz next week to meet Craig Garner. He’s a neuroscientist with very interesting ideas and connections, whose son has a lazy eye.  It should be a stimulating discussion.

…whilst some things needed clearing up…

The hardware development was starting to become bogged down in misunderstanding and miscommunication, so we settled on an initial “universe of discourse” for describing all the different parts of a headset, you can take a look here:

Universe of Discource – VR Headset

…and finally a call for help and advice…

Firstly, it’s getting urgent that we refactor the code to use a command pattern.  This would allow us to efficiently record what exactly the user did, and when, so that we can (for instance) record an audio-overlay of their perceptual experiences and reconstruct it by playing back the command stream for the given build of the system they were using.  Recording video from screen capture is just impossible on lower-end devices, and requires far too much bandwidth to retrieve over poor connections and our limited server capacity.  Is anybody up for getting involved in this refactoring? Get in touch 🙂

Secondly, is there a different way we can fund the “delivery” side of the idea?  What’s the point of making something amazing, if it doesn’t reach anybody, or they can’t afford to use it?

Crowd-funding is alright to make some initial production ready prototypes (and we may do this), and it can solve the chicken-egg problem, but it’s not a long-term solution to the “discovery” problem.

Going the institutional charity route is another option – but I fear that makes the entire setup extremely vulnerable to the whims of politics.

I know we can raise enough capital from classical VC, but I worry about being strong-armed into delivering the system to the wrong people and at the wrong price to really make a difference.

My models suggest we’ll need at least six months to a year of runway (for at least four people) to get the production, advertising, delivery and support infrastructure for the headsets and app optimised to a point that such an organisation can support itself. That’s a need for capital with a solid five 0s on the end.

One solution might be to raise capital the regular way, but with a group of investors (with a board level representative) who themselves have lazy-eye.  I feel this would help block any board-level tendencies to short-termism and dishonest business development.  Does this resonate with you?

At around 5 independent investors putting in between 20-30k€ per person this is actually interesting to many of the investors I have spoken to. More than this number becomes unmanageable.

Any other ideas?  Why not join the discussion  !

…onwards and upwards

Of course, this is only a selection of what’s happened in the last couple of weeks – so thanks to everybody that’s contributed their time and energy… lets see what happens in the next couple of weeks!

Finally, just in case you are feeling generous : you can support us by donating a few quid here https://www.eyeskills.org/donate/.  We’re buying quite a lot of bits and pieces for experimenting which it would be good to have some help with (not to mention I’m also working full-time without pay so long as I can continue to afford to 😉 ).

Bye bye!

Newsletter – Happy Hacking – 04.03.2019

It’s been a few weeks since the last newsletter, but that doesn’t mean nothing has been happening.

Progress on eye tracking

First, I did some 3D printing with Moritz to retrofit an existing headset with mounts to hold our endoscopic cameras, this worked well…

https://www.eyeskills.org/another-iteration-of-our-eye-observation-open-hardware/

In parallel, Rene has managed to get the cameras working quite reliably in various versions of Android – quite a relief!

At the Hackademy it became clear to me, however, that we should and could start at an even lower and more accessible price point – by hacking the standard Google Cardboard V2 design to include a new “component” at its heart! https://www.eyeskills.org/hackademy-hacking-google-cardboard-v2/

Progress on UX

Our ultimate goal is to make EyeSkills usable and affordable for the world. It should educate and inform just as much as promoting experience and training.   We made considerable progress identifying where to start… and I hope, we will be able to start getting bi-weekly prototypes out to those of you who have registered for beta-testing, to get your feedback in these critical early stages.

Development

Even if it was only a single line, it is a milestone.  The first code merge has happened!  Thanks for your input Rene!

Funding

At a personal level, I’m still unsure how best to move EyeSkills towards an economically self-sustaining global existence without sacrificing its principles to short-term thinking.  My last round of contacts with traditional funders have convinced me that we will have to do things very differently indeed.

As the community continues to show an interest, and I look at the skills we have, I begin to think that we really could do this on our own.

At this point, I would like to give a heartfelt shout out and a thank you to  Bradley Lane who donated 50 EUR towards our MoneyPool:

https://www.paypal.com/pools/c/8byPUuuQ1D

I am very grateful for your gesture of support.

Interesting meetings and new people

We have a big data specialist waiting for our go-ahead to get his hands dirty as a volunteer! With decades of experience at the coal-face of an internationally renowned cloud company, I think his input will be invaluable. More on this in the coming months….! 🙂

We also met with a leading neuroscientist from the Charite in Berlin – which led to some very interesting discussions on how to handle issues such as detached retinas.

… welcome to other new members of the community, I hope I’ll be introducing you soon 😉

Have a lovely day!

 

Please “like” EyeTracktive and help us Win!

We need your support!

Please “like” us – https://hackaday.io/project/164944-eyetracktive Points means prizes!

The excellent hackaday.io has organised a global :

“hardware design contest focused on product development. DesignLab connects you to engineers, expert mentors, and other powerful resources to take your product from concept to DFM.”

If everybody on this list takes five minutes to support us, we’ll be at position 5 on the leaderboard and far more visible to the world (thus attracting more likes). At the moment we’re at position 28 with 14 likes.

This might be what we need to help us take EyeTracktive to a finished product.  Eyetracktive is the ultra-low cost open-hardware eye tracking headset we’re working on to complement EyeSkills (so we can see objectively what the eyes are actually doing, enabling “at home” training with precision and safety).

If you register at hackaday.io you can “like” the project (https://hackaday.io/project/164944-eyetracktive) and help propel it up the leaderboard (https://prize.supplyframe.com/).

Thanks to an anonymous donation we’ve got enough together that I could buy a discounted (super super cheap) A3 laser cutter which will allow us to continue prototyping and even producing the inner core of the EyeTracktive headset, but when it arrives I’ll still need to build an enclosure and setup a ventilation system.  If nothing else, every “like” wins us $3 which will help cover those materials! 🙂

Thanks!

Ben