Imagine that you know of someone who is a talented individual who is passionate and opinionated about his or her work and with a lot to offer. You hear that a progressive and life changing disease is gradually reducing his or her ability to walk and move. Eventually, you are confronted with the fact that he or she is no longer able to express the feelings within through words or emotions. What would you do? What if this individual is in your family? What if this person is a complete stranger? For storyteller and film producer Mick Ebeling, it was important for him to step in to help even though he did not know this individual.
Mick Ebeling drew a roomful of audience when he spoke on day one of this year’s NXNE Interactive festival. He talked extensively about the development of the EyeWriter project, one that he spearheaded after hearing and witnessing the ordeals as experienced by Tempt, an LA-based graffiti artist who had been paralyzed by Lou Gehrig’s Disease, more commonly known as ALS. Collaborating with other developers, Ebeling and his team invented the EyeWriter, a device that would track the movement of an individual’s pupil, resembling the tip of a pencil. Thanks to this new invention, recognized as one of the 50 best inventions of 2010 by TIME Magazine, paralyzed artists such as Tempt were given the opportunity to showcase their thoughts and expressions through art once again.
How could this be possible, you might ask? Ebeling attributed the success of the EyeWriter to four items: “singularity of focus”; the premise of open source; “limitless naivety”; and the fact that we are all “makers.”
Leading up to the development of the EyeWriter, Ebeling had one mission: to get involved with this cause of helping Tempt the artist to draw again. By focusing on one single mission, Ebeling and his team were able to customize and tailor their device to one individual. Organizations and individuals alike can certainly get in the habit of focusing on the customer experience and doing it well.
The premise of open source involves the contribution, modification and adaptation of information, content and coding by programmers and developers. This enabled Ebeling and his team to shorten the development cycle of the EyeWriter, as other experts were able to provide feedback and quick fixes when it came to coding and other technological issues. Collaboration not only allows for the sharing of ideas and best practices, but it certainly improves morale and motivates team members to strive for continued improvement.
During the hour-long talk, Ebeling also encouraged the audience to “don’t know their limitations” and not let restrictions and regulations to impact their best interest. Furthermore, he pointed out that we are all “makers” who are capable of creating fun, “frivolous inventions” but have so much more to contribute in terms of skill sets and expertise towards other causes. Another way to look at this is: Are we thinking outside of the box? Are we willing to take risks?
Mark Ebeling’s relentless dedication to helping those with disabilities does not stop here. He and his team at Not Impossible Labs are about to begin work on a Brainwriter for Tempt (as his condition has worsened), a Super Cane for a blind magician, and a mouth-controlled PC mouse. In the meantime, learn more about Tempt’s story by checking out the documentary, Getting Up: The Tempt One Story. Let the inspiration continue and let us face the impossible with creativity and an open mind.