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SpeakFaster Observer: Long-Term Instrumentation of Eye-Gaze Typing for Measuring AAC Communication

Subhashini Venugopalan
Meredith Ringel Morris
Richard Jonathan Noel Cave
Bob MacDonald
Jon Campbell
Blair Casey
Emily Kornman
Daniel Vance
Jay Beavers
CHI23 Case Studies of HCI in Practice (2023) (to appear)

Abstract

Accelerating communication for users with severe motor and speech impairments, in particular for eye-gaze Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device users, is a long-standing area of research. However, observation of such users' communication over extended durations has been limited. This case study presents the real-world experience of developing and field-testing a tool for observing and curating the gaze typing-based communication of a consented eye-gaze AAC user with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) from the perspective of researchers at the intersection of HCI and artificial intelligence (AI). With the intent to observe and accelerate eye-gaze typed communication, we designed a tool and a protocol called the SpeakFaster Observer to measure everyday conversational text entry by the consenting gaze-typing user, as well as several consenting conversation partners of the AAC user. We detail the design of the Observer software and data curation protocol, along with considerations for privacy protection. The deployment of the data protocol from November 2021 to April 2022 yielded a rich dataset of gaze-based AAC text entry in everyday context, consisting of 130+ hours of gaze keypresses and 5.5k+ curated speech utterances from the AAC user and the conversation partners. We present the key statistics of the data, including the speed (8.1±3.9 words per minute) and keypress saving rate (-0.18±0.87) of gaze typing, patterns of of utterance repetition and reuse, as well as the temporal dynamics of conversation turn-taking in gaze-based communication. We share our findings and also open source our data collections tools for furthering research in this domain.