Over the past four months I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore a number of eye tracking communication devices with one of my students and her family as we move through the process of selection. Just yesterday we met with our wonderful Tobii rep, Chris, to try out the Tobii C-Eye. About nine months before Chris had visited and my student tried out the Tobii P-10, which is also an eye gaze device. Since then she has trialled essentially every eye gaze device on the market (the Eyemax, the Erica (now owned by Dynavox) and the Eco).
The trial was a joy from the word go. Some of the things that made it wonderful were that the user knew what to expect from calibration and for the first time was able to calibrate a device, she had been exposed to the board sets because we had been sent a trial copy of the Tobii Communicator Software to look at and we use SymbolStix (the picture symbols on the Tobii) everyday. Also our rep was able to both engage the user and answer the question of the SLP, myself and the family at the same time (that takes some doing). Additionally the student was able to keep on her bifocal glasses, which she was unable to do in any other device trial. Also we were able to remove her chest strap and give her the freedom to move backwards and forwards in space and access still wasn't and issue. The best part of the trial, by far, was when at the very end the TEAM started chatting and the user was left to explore (sort of by accident). So she launched an American Idol video in Windows Media Player! We were stunned and she laughed!
Beyond the trial the Tobii Communicator software really is a joy to use. I am such an "old timer" at Boardmaker Speaking Dynamically Pro and at some of the other devices at the market that sometimes I have a hardtime rewiring my brain to do new devices, however the Tobii is a breeze. It converted all sorts of Boardmaker SDP files over no problem (except it doesn't drag and drop - although none of my boards do that since none of my students do that). You can do all the fancy things you can do in other programs from shuffle to stretch to instantly resize and often times without hitting as many buttons as you need to in other software programs. I am excited to be running a trial of an AAC device for a student on a program that is so easy to learn to use.
Tobii is a local company for us, just a few towns over, which makes arranging the next step of our journey towards an eye gaze AAC device for this user a little easier (renting a device to collect some data) as there is no shipping involved. It will take about 30 minutes for someone to go pick up the trial device once our name comes up on the waiting list. Hopefully our user will have one of her own soon!
Apologies to Chris for calling him Brian in the frist version of this post... someday I will get better at names! Chris is one of the best AAC Vendor reps I have worked with.