Assistive Technology Leads to New High Tech Company
When Professor Steve Fickas and Professor McKay Sohlberg met on their children's soccer field, they had no idea how much collaboration was in store for them. They started as co-instructors in a CIS graduate seminar that created a pilot study on email use by people with traumatic brain injury(TBI), and ended up as co-CEO's in a new assistive technology company. The seminar lead to a 5-year $1.5 million grant from the
National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR)
The grant provided funding for a team of CIS undergrads and grad students to build a prototype assistive email system. The stand-alone system is now available as
, an open source application, on SourceForge. The technology, along with propietary server support and configuration software, is available from the new company as CogLink
Initially, CogLink is targetting institutional customers with brain injury or senile dementia. The NIDRR study has found that the technology is both practical and beneficial for individuals with TBI. Because the simplified user interface supports people with limited working memory and retention capacity, the team beleives that the software will also be marketable to older individuals who just don't want to take the trouble to learn new technology. According to Prof. Sohlberg, "As more and more families use email to share pictures and family events, older people who lack access feel disconnected. We see a huge market for simple and safe email that is accessible to everyone."