If you want to control your mouse cursor with your head, now you can. There are several products on the Internet that allows you to perform such actions. Enable Viacam is one of the most successful one. It is a free, open-source software (awarded - details here) that promise to change the world.
When it comes down to mouse cursor control, I noticed two different technologies. The first one involves neuroscience, chirurgical intervention on the human brain and uses tiny electrodes to allow people with different injuries (spinal cord, Lou Gehrig’s disease) to control the mouse or even other remote objects. A promising but complicated technology and I don't think it has a real chance in the next 10 years. Also, I find it hard to believe that it will be available at a large mass-scale due to high costs.
Enable Viacam is free, open-source and besides a regular PC or Laptop it requires a regular web cam. If a person with disabilities can move his head this application is a gem. The entire setup and configuration will take a couple of minutes. To spare some time, I have written this introduction and made several screenshots. Download eViaCam (Enable Viacam) and install the application. There are seven steps (that I skipped) found at most applications: select language, choose installation folder and so on. If you use Vista or Windows 7 please pay attention at the following setup window:
Note: It's recommended to disable the User Account Control (UAC) to run eViacam properly. With UAC enabled problems may arise, specially the inability to confirm elevation prompts or to open the on-screen keyboard shipped with the system (osk.exe). These issues are under investigation.
Installing this program was easy, this is the last step, choose "Finish" and take a look at the configuration part.
If you successfully installed eViacam, insert your external web cam (if you don't have one integrated) find eViacam icon on your desktop and open the program.
When you open Enable Viacam for the first time, you will see three different windows. (1) Configuration Window, (2) a small window with a red square around your head and (3) a black bar that allows you to customize mouse actions. In this screenshot I tried to unite all of them. Since we're at configuration part, you have to follow the indications given in the first window - (1) "eViacam configuration wizard". Choose "Next".
If everything went well, you should see the model of your web camera and the current framerate. To be able to use this software you need a camera that can deliver at least 25fps.
Note: For best performance, the frame rate should be equal to or greater than 25 fps. eViacam tries to automatically configure your camera, but If this value is below this threshold you may need to manually adjust the camera settings.
In this window you can configure motion tracking area. I have opted for "locate face automatically" feature. You can also disable the program automatically if no face is found for several seconds.
The program will track your head and use them later to reproduce your moves. You can also manually adjust the motion parameters manually - later.
Be careful at this point as you have to perform slow and precise head movements. You will be asked to move your head to left and right, up and down and finally to choose "OK" if the mouse cursor moves as you wish. You can also choose "Repeat" if you want to try again. I used "Repeat" several times before I obtained a good result.
As I said before, you can manually adjust your mouse pointer. "You can enable/disable the mouse motion to test the pointer speed and adjust the parameters manually."
Last step: how to use the mouse click. By default, Enable Viacam use "Dwell Click". This means that you have to keep the mouse for a period over a program icon or button. You can specify the time required to click. If you choose a long time you will lose your patience. Also if you use less time, the mouse will click too early and it will open a lot of files. You can customize the "dwell click" from program settings area. Additionally, you can disable the click. This is the final step and you should be able to use the program.
The following image is a representation of the entire process after Enable Viacam has been installed and configured. In step 1, the web camera follows your head movement. In step 2 the information is sent to "Enable Viacam" application that informs your mouse cursor what action to perform on your desktop (step 3). It's not a detailed or professional image but the idea was to simplify the entire process so everyone can understand what is all about.
Enable Viacam is a part of our future, the first step for a great-helping technology has been achieved. It is a great tool for people with disabilities and also for enthusiasts. Because it's free, open source software, I would also recommend a donation (located on the main page).