« Episode 37 | Main | What Became Of The Venus? »

Donkin's World: What Price The Gift Of Writing With Your Eyes?

Richard Donkin highlights the amazing story of Tony Quan, a man who can write with his eyes.

Please visit Richard's entertaining Web site

To purchase a copies of Richard's celebrated books please click on

This is the story of Tony Quan, a man who can write with his eyes. It is also the story of James Powderly and the Creators Project. http://thecreatorsproject.com/en-uk/

James tells his own story far better than I can. http://thecreatorsproject.com/en-uk/creators/james-powderly?no_research=true&no_tracker=true

Assuming now that you've visited the site and heard Powderly speak, I wonder if you will agree that this is a truly inspiring story. I like it because it challenges various perceptions and prejudices but mostly I like it because it makes me feel good about people.

It's the story of a man who was a "corporate aerospace engineer" who worked on the Mars exploration rover, among other things, and who gave up this work to work in a laboratory called Eyebeam http://eyebeam.org/ and through that set up something called the Graffiti Research Laboratory.

That word graffiti will probably trigger an emotional response in most of us. For some it will be a negative response, stoking preformed prejudices. That said, I'm sure we're prepared to overlook any prejudice when we see the cool things that Powderly and his collaborators are creating using light projections to "draw" graffiti on buildings. It's called light tagging.

It's up to you to decide whether it is art, just as it is up to you decide whether the spray-paint tagging of graffiti artists such as Tony Quan, who used the name Tempt in various places across Los Angeles, merits the description, art and artist. http://graffitiresearchlab.com/

But whatever we think about graffiti, I would challenge anyone to be unmoved by the way these new light tagging technologies have been used to help Quan who has been afflicted for the past seven years by the muscle-wasting illness, ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), sometimes described as Lou Gehrig's disease. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyotrophic_lateral_sclerosis

While he has lost movement in his limbs he still has control over eye movement. Coupling that movement to the light projection technology has enabled Powderly and his team to give Quan the ability to write and draw again.

The eye-writing project took just 10 days. Powderly says: "And then on that last night of that 10 days of development Tony Quan wrote for the first time in seven years - using his eyes."

A footnote: amazing as it is, you won't find this story in your Guardian or Daily Telegraph because most print journalists still source news stories in conventional ways, drawing from a daily news agenda, usually led by political, business, court and sports events. In time, probably quite soon, this story will emerge in to the mainstream through the pace of referral multiplication on Facebook, Twitter and blogs such as this (or all of them used together).

I came to it, through Stumbleupon which I would commend to you as a service that finds web sights that match your interests.

I can't remember when it was I began using Stumbleupon on the internet. Suffice to say it was years ago. When I say use, I might spend five or ten minutes every now and then flicking through web sites, using the Stumble button on my task bar.

Just to explain, for those who may not be familiar with it, Stumbleupon.com is a web search engine that selects web sites for you to look at based on various personal preferences you have registered with the site. http://www.stumbleupon.com/aboutus/

Instead of being presented with a random site selection when you press the button it provides something more likely than not that will interest you. Sites are "discovered" by other stumblers and given "like" or "dislike" ratings (which are also noted by the StumbleUpon recognition software). It's the same kind of mechanism that allows Facebook and Google to spot your interests and target you with what they consider to be appropriate advertising.

Anyway this is just a preamble to explain my use of the verb when I tell you I stumbled on this site last night. I mentioned it with a link on Facebook and it seemed to resonate with some people so I'm mentioning it here too.

I'm fascinated by career paths and anything that challenges a belief that we have to follow a predefined pattern in careers. If you have ever read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, you will have some perception of what it must be like to have a fully functioning brain that is "locked-in" by the inability to communicate. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Diving_Bell_and_the_Butterfly

Is searching through the sands of Mars more important than the gift of communication to a paralysed man? I suppose that's a question of perspective, context and personal values.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.