Theo Watson’s EyeWriter was inspired by LA graffiti artist TEMPTONE. In 2003, Tempt1 was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a disease of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that affects muscle movement. The disease left the artist completely paralyzed except for eye movement. Members of Free Art and Technology, openFrameworks, and the Graffiti Research Lab (all of which Watson is a part of), began working to develop a program that would allow people with disabilities like Tempt1 to draw using only their eyes. The project’s long-term goal is “to create a professional/social network of software developers, hardware hackers, urban projection artists and ALS patients from around the world who are using local materials and open source research to creatively connect and make eye art.” (1)
After the program was developed, the collaborators took the project one step further and projected TEMPT1’s tags onto the sides of buildings as laser graffiti, allowing him to continue a hobby he loved from his hospital bed. On the left is an image of a TEMPT1 analog tag from the 1980s and a TEMPT1 EyeWriter laser tag from 2009. As seen in the video above, Watson and team also developed a robot arm that can physically reproduce drawings made in the EyeWriter program.
EyeWriter is more than just an experiment in new media, it’s a fascinating example of how new media art can human needs and improve day to day life. Watson and his collaborators won the Design of the Year award from the British Design Museum and the first Future Everything award for their efforts.
For more on Graffiti Research Lab’s related work, see their project L.A.S.E.R. Tag.
“Defense contractors say that within the next 10 years they’ll have a solid state laser mounted on a Hummer that can put a hole in a sheet of metal from several miles away. Well Dutch graffiti writers can pretty much do that now with this Hymermobil-mounted L.A.S.E.R. Tagging system dope off the assembly line at the Graffiti Research Lab.” (2)
(1) EyeWriter website (http://eyewriter.org/)