Monday, March 8, 2010

Tobii Tales from the Field

As promised here are some stories of our first week with the Tobii P10 in our classroom.

Our student is currently using a 12 location board with care take to have yes, no and go back in the same location on each board (like nearly all students she is a very motor memory based communicator).  The first few days of the trial we did not add any new boards inspite of some student nagging, "I am frustrated. What I want to say is not here!"  I (the teacher) did lots of explaining around that both things are true, that she is frustrated because she is learning all the new boards, which is very hard work, and how to link between them, while at the same time she does have messages for all she wants to say.  By the end of the first week we were seeing some spontaneously linking between pages and some humor, which we expected with this student.  The linking however was more difficult to predict as it is hard to know how linking will go on an eye gaze device because there are very few ways to emulate dynamic display.  Something else we heard a lot of in those early days was, "I can't see!"  Our only answer to that was, "Sorry about that, the loaner P10 is huge, your C-eye will be smaller when you get it."  (And so our user can protest!)

As we enter our second week we are seeing more linking and more humor.  For example, today we played a game in speech therapy group in which the prize was a lollypop.  Our Tobii user won.  Later in the day we did a little scrapbooking and after our Tobii user was finished her scrapbooking page (having made some nice choices with her Tobii); I moved on to assisting another student.  As far as I knew the Tobii user was still on the art page.  Then I heard, "Can I taste that?"  (A message only on the cooking page as this student does not generally eat by mouth.  Thus the student had navigated several layers to get to the message.)  I laughed and told my Tobii friend that it was paper.  Again I heard, "Can I taste that?"  I glanced over and saw her shift her gaze to the lollypop from earlier, back in its wrapper on the table.  I gave her a taste.  We then enjoyed a fun game of me returning to the other student only to be summoned with, "Can I taste that?", the moment I would start assisting that student.  It was pretty funny.  (And so our user can request!  And tease.)

We finished up a little early today (when does that happen?  I mean seriously? we finished early?) and read a book before dismissal.  It was a rhyming book that built on itself along the lines of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" but with more acrobatics for the tongue.  At some point my tongue got tangled.  Without missing a beat my Tobii user said, "You're funny!"  (And so our user can comment!)

Thus, as you can read, our user is phenomanal (I like the term "rock star").  The Tobii is also pretty cool.  The eye gaze is quite amazing.  We have super accuracy when the user is in her stander.  Our user also likes to move around a lot, especially forward and back in her chair and the Tobii works fine.  We did have some issues with our user having trouble accessing the top row of the Tobii while in her wheelchair.  After days of this the only thing that worked to fix it was adjusting her headrest.  Logically adjusting the Tobii should have worked, but it turned out the user really needed more room to move her head back.  Battery life is another small problem we are having.  This will not be an issue on the Tobii C-eye which has hot swap batteries, but the P10 has a 13 pound "portable" (depending on your definition of portable) which makes it not quite six hours.  Sadly the school day is six hours.  So there is some time when our user is without communication.  There are also three bugs (so far) that we are having with the software.  The first is that sometimes the eye tracking will be working fine in the "Tobii Desktop" but not in the "Communicator" software.  Meaning we have to shut down Communicator and re-open it.  Annoying but no big deal.  A bigger deal is that for some reason when we attempt to import some files we get a "Out of Memory" message on the Tobii.  This when there is some 26+ Gigs of memory available.  This can be problematic when we have put a lot of effort into making something and it can't be imported.  Tech support has had no answers for us.  Finally there has been an issue with the fact that there are multiple places in Communicator to make buttons do the same thing.  Thus it is possible to "send mixed messages".  So if in one of the places you tell a button to do the action "go back" and in another you tell it to "go to page named MAIN" then the button will not work.  Annoying.  Tobii should fix that.

That being said, excepting those bugs, Communicator is 100 times easier to program than any other communication software I have ever used (and I have used Boardmaker SDP, Dynavox 2c-V, Chat-PC, Enkidu, Talking Box, Gus, Tango, Word+ and more).  So don't get the wrong idea.

However, Tobii is sorely lacking a sharing community for Communicator.  They really need to get on this!  Granted Tango and Dynavox, among others are lacking in this area, but Boardmaker really shines and Communicator could really be something is sharing was happening!  Also they should get some books into the Accessible Book Collection in Communictor (.cdd) format.


  1. Great report on the work with your "rock star", thanks for sharing!

    These are the magic moments that we all work so hard for - both you folks in the classrooms and homes, but also us in the offices and labs, working for suppliers and developing the technology. Fortunately we have been spoiled with many users that literally skyrocket with the help of eyegaze technology, it gives us an amazing amount of energy!

    Of course it is a pleasure to read that you like our software as well. "Communicator is 100 times easier to program than any other communication software I have ever used" is a statement that boosts our energy even further.

    I think Tech support has already sent out a solution to one of your problems, a fix for the second one should be quick to find as well. You've got us with the last issue, we really need to fix this. It will take us some time, though.

    I fully agree that Communicator files should be shared widely. That's why we have just started a sharing page: see Here you can share all your Communicator or SymbolMate creations and browse through the stuff from others. We already have some 350 files up there, and this is just the start.
    So I am really looking forward to seeing you share your files!


    (DISCLOSURE: I work for Tobii)

  2. Hi, Tobii does have a sharing community it just launched last month.!! yeah!!
    Signing up is free!


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