December 12, 2021, marks the 25th anniversary of EyeTech Digital Systems. In 2016, co-founders Robert Chappell and Melinda Trego formally launched the company that would pioneer advancements in precision eye-tracking, health AI, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Chappell was introduced to the world of assistive technology after a physical injury left him unable to code (learn more about that origin story here). After finding existing workarounds to be lacking, the two siblings teamed up to bring new tools to market to help individuals with disabilities and communication impairments find their voice.
Since then, the company has celebrated several important milestones along its 25-year journey. Product innovations include release of:
- the first Windows-compatible “eye mouse” input device controlled remotely by a user’s eyes
- the first compact eye-tracking camera with a USB interface
- EyeOn Elite, an AI-enabled, purpose-built AAC device
- the EyeOn open eye-tracking platform for end users, medical application publishers and researchers
- OnBright, a first-of-its-kind suite of software applications for the AAC community
- EyeOn Go, a portable, 10-inch speech-generating device
Several new products are currently in development as EyeTech continues its mission to help users transcend limitations and find greater freedom and independence. To date, the company’s AAC devices have been used by more than 10,000 individuals in 35 countries, leaving an indelible mark on end-users and their families, friends, and caregivers. Their inspiring stories are highlighted in EyeTech’s Bright Moments feature series. The company’s use of artificial intelligence and machine learning has also earned glowing reviews within health AI award circles.
Making an Impact – The Employee Perspective
Looking back on EyeTech’s journey, Founders and employees had this to say about what working within the AAC space has meant to them:
"It has been uniquely satisfying to see the profound change in someone's life when they are given a window to the world that they didn't have before."
– Rob Chappell, EyeTech Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientist
“People are the reason I have enjoyed being a part of EyeTech - the people we serve, the people we employ, and the interesting people I have met along the way. Having a voice is important for all people and being a part of something that gives people a voice makes it all worthwhile. My heart is full of gratitude for the many people that make EyeTech possible - customers, vendors, employees, investors. We have an amazing team who share their unique talents and skills to make good things happen for people all over the world.”
– Melinda Trego, EyeTech Co-Founder and COO
“It has been an absolute dream to be part of such an amazing team focused on improving the lives of our clients and the family and caregivers around them. I am excited for our latest EyeOn series of AAC devices, powerful OnBright software, integrated Success Coach team for life, and dedicated in-person field team to ensure our clients have the help they need every step of their journey. When I go see a client and see their eyes light up as they use our device for the first time to communicate and control their phone, TV, and other devices around them, it brings me so much joy to know that our team is making an impact for good worldwide.”
– Keith Jackson, EyeTech AAC Regional Consultant
“Working closely with those with disabilities and their loved ones on a daily basis is the best part of being a Success Coach at EyeTech. My goal is to help them achieve success using our AAC devices to supplement and restore their ability to communicate and express themselves. Communication is the most basic of needs that every person should have access to and aiding in that brings tremendous joy!”
– Rachelle Hansen, EyeTech Success Coach SLP Assistant
Looking Forward: Where eye-tracking and health AI are headed next
EyeTech has made tremendous strides in AAC, and the company has no plans of stopping there. Emerging use cases for eye-tracking and health AI within medical settings hold great potential for the healthcare industry. Leslie North, EyeTech’s newly appointed CEO, sees ample opportunity for eye-tracking solutions to support non-verbal patient engagement in virtual and acute care settings, as well as non-invasive diagnostics for neurological disorders that can be detected early in eye movements.
“Our overarching mission at EyeTech is to improve the quality of life for individuals with neurodegenerative diseases and other physical challenges that inhibit their ability to connect with the world around them,” said North. “We’re honored to play a part in building greater health equity for these individuals and look forward to making additional advancements in medicine and diagnostics as we look ahead.”