Tuesday, December 30, 2008

True innovators giving away life-changing innovation for free (as many times happens)

Two students created a mouse that allows people with total paralysis to manage a computer with their eyes. This development resulted in them receiving the award to Technological Innovation 2008, given by the Argentine-German Chamber of Commerce. The project, carried out by the school ORT located in Belgrano (a neighbourhood in Buenos Aires) is the continuation of work done two years ago when they developed a device aimed at people with paralysis called “Head Mouse”, which required head movements to operate the computer.

The new device, the “Eye Mouse”, allows controlling a computer with eye movements, which would let thousands of people that have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis to use a computer. The project started when a friend of one of the students’ father contacted them to access the “Head Mouse” but discovered that his disease did not allowed him to use it. That prompted the students to work on adapting it so it could be controlled using only the eyes.

As if the development wasn’t good enough, the students decided that that sort of device should be available for everyone that needs it and posted on the school’s blog how to build it and the necessary software, giving a de facto licence to everyone to use the fruit of their innovation royalty-free.

Now that there is a global crisis and that a new US president is going to be sworn in, many members of knowledge industries are using an obscene amount of resources to lobby almost everyone that have a saying on IP issues to convince them that innovation depends on strong and stronger IP rights and that the wealth that IP rights seem to guarantee are the necessary incentive for innovators…well, a couple of school students in the South of the planet are giving yet another example that the argument is simply not true. People innovate and create due to a very vast array of reasons and there is growing evidence that IP rights have gone quite beyond the point where they have become more a burden than an incentive to innovation…

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