Many people living with disabilities are told that certain activities are out of the question for them, but a new invention is proving that where there's a will, there's always a way!
Dr. Zacharias Vamvakousis of Barcelona, Spain, has come up with an innovative way to improve the quality of life for countless people through the power of music. His invention is called EyeHarp, and it enables individuals to make music using their gaze instead of their hands.
"EyeHarp is the first inclusive musical instrument that allows people with disabilities to play music with eye or head movements," Zacharias explained. "Using an eye tracker, a user can make melodies by looking at the notes on the screen."
EyeHarp, now on its fifth version, is a digital musical instrument that features a color-blocked wheel on a screen. Users use their eyes to gaze at the notes they want to hit, and there's a visual aid for newer musicians that can be turned off when they become more advanced. Anyone can use it, which was entirely Zacharias' goal.
“I wanted to make all this available to anyone,” he said.
Zacharias has a master's degree in music technology and a doctorate in digital musical instruments for people with disabilities. He got the idea for EyeHarp after a friend was badly injured in a motorcycle accident.
His friend was worried he'd never be able to play his guitar again, so the scholar decided to find a way to make music available to him again. While his friend didn't end up needing the EyeHarp, by then Zacharias was on a mission to help others who thought music was forever lost to them.
“I realized that the technology was there, but that nobody had done anything about it,” he said. So he started the EyeHarp Foundation in 2019!
“These are people who are so disabled they don’t have the opportunity to do many things,” said Panagiota Kapnisi, a music therapist who works with Zacharias. “Learning music through an application like this gives them happiness. It’s their instrument. They couldn’t use an instrument and now they have one. You give them purpose and the opportunity to play music.”
Zacharias agreed, noting that music builds social connections and boosts self-esteem, among other benefits. He's currently training music teachers to use EyeHarp so they can reach even more people with disabilities.
So far only about 650 people are using a version of EyeHarp, but there are literally millions who could benefit from the software.
This invention has the potential to change so many lives! Just think of all the incredible works of art we're missing simply because artists have no way of making their music. EyeHarp levels the playing field — and puts power back in musicians' hands!
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