School of Engineering and Digital Arts

Facial Gestures for Accessing Assistive Technologies


The Facial Gestures project aims to develop new pattern recognition and computer vision technologies building on those currently used for head and eye tracking with webcams. The goal is to capture and interpret the intentions and messages from patients who have speech and language impairments and only have the ability for very small movements of their head or parts of their face. The reliable detection of these small movements will be used to provide a means of controlling appropriate assistive technologies. This will then give the patient access to effective means of communication and to a greater control of their environment and hence adding quality to their lives.

This research project was jointly funded by School of Engineering of University of Kent and R & D Directorate of East Kent Hospital NHS Trust through a competitive grant bid. Total grant value is £96000 and will lead to awarding a PhD degree.

The algorithms will have to adapt to changes in the environment such as changes in lighting conditions. This system is designed to help individuals who sustained injury to Central Nervous System e.g. brain injury, stroke, Motor Neuron Disease, Cerebral Palsy and Multiple Sclerosis to communicate with their friends and relatives. In extreme cases these individuals may only be able to move their eyes or make small facial gestures.

The system will have to be able to detect these limited movements and adapt to any change in the condition of the individuals. This would also make it easier on the users as they would not have to learn how to operate a different interface. The system will detect facial gestures, head movements or eye movements through analysis of the pictures. Once detected, the system can then output the appropriate signals to control a communication system or computer. The proposed system will have to be cost effective, easy to set up and be easy to operate by the user. The system should be able to adapt even if the condition of the user deteriorates. The ultimate objective is to create an assistive technology for people with neuro-disability which enhances their quality of life as well as increase efficiency of the health and social care system of UK.

Team Members

School of Engineering and Digital Arts, Jennison Building, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NT

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Last Updated: 30/08/2017