At the launch of the 2018 Tech4Good Awards on Monday 5 March at the BT Tower in London, we saw some amazing tech that’s changing lives for the better across the world. The tech that caught my eye and my heart, however, focused on the ability to help desperately ill children control a computer with their eyes alone.

Previous winners with life-changing legacies

This is the 8th year of the Tech4Good Awards that celebrates the best of tech when it’s used to have a huge beneficial impact on people or the world. Every year the entries across a range of categories are among the very best examples of technology being used to include, innovate, empower and educate. In every case their products or projects have gone from strength to strength and are having an enormous impact upon people’s lives.

We heard from several previous winners. When Simone Enefer-Doy from Lifelites (a charity that brings empowering tech to terminally-ill children) spoke on stage it quite literally brought a lump to my throat and I was close to tears. More of Lifelites in a moment.

Also speaking on stage was Hector Minto. Senior Technology Evangelist at Microsoft. Hector spoke of the ever-more-comprehensive inclusion of historically specialist (and very expensive) technologies now freely incorporated into mainstream software and devices. A notable example is the new eye control capabilities now built-in to Windows 10.

Hector Minto, Microsoft
Hector Minto, Microsoft

Finally – affordable eye-control for paralysed children

If you’re not able to move your arms or legs, then by far the best and quickest way to control a computer is with ‘eye-gaze’ technology. Tracking your eye movements to control the mouse pointer and clicking by dwelling on an item is as quick as a mouse if the tech is good enough. If you also can’t speak, then entering text or selecting sentences on-screen using your eyes will mean you can speak with a computer voice at a speed fast enough to hold a comfortable conversation.

Photo of Simone Enefer-Doy from Lifelites
Simone Enefer-Doy, Lifelites, talking about life-changing eye-gaze technology

The Lifelites charity work with terminally ill (and often very disabled) children in hospices across the UK. They provide a wide range of software, equipment and adaptations so that in every case they open up a wealth of choices in entertainment, education and communication for these children in the last months and weeks of their lives.

Up until now, eye-tracking technology has been beyond their budget for many of those children who need it to play, learn and communicate. With the inclusion of sophisticated eye control built-in to Windows 10, however, and the now far more affordable eye-tracking bar from TOBII Simone was able to confirm that this life-changing combination will now be able to be provided to children who, without this tech, would not be able to do such basic and vital things as communicate with their families and play on a computer in the remaining time they have. This is where the lump came in.

Now help us find future winners with life-changing tech

Please help us find and recognize all those amazing projects, products and services that are using tech to change lives.

Entering the Tech4Good Awards is free of charge and we welcome you to nominate yourself or someone else. All the information you need is on our website.