A Vision to Help the Disabled


Margrit Betke

Margrit Betke is a pioneer in the field of computer vision. She co-leads the Image & Video Computing Research Group at CAS and conducts research in the development of methods for detection, segmentation, registration, and tracking of objects in visible-light, infrared, and x-ray image data. She has also worked on gesture, vehicle, and animal tracking, video-based human-computer interfaces, statistical object recognition, and medical imaging analysis, publishing over 80 original research papers.

One of her best-known creations is the Camera Mouse. Through a decade-long collaboration between Margrit, a CAS associate professor of computer science, and James Gips, a Boston College professor of computer science, Camera Mouse was born. The tool helps people with medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, spinal muscular atrophy, ALS, multiple sclerosis, and traumatic brain injury, use computers more easily. The technology employs a computer webcam to lock onto and track a chosen section of the user’s face—a nostril or the tip of an eyebrow, for example—and then links that person’s head movement to a cursor on the screen. Move right and the cursor goes right. Betke, Gips, and now two GRS graduate students in Betke’s lab, Chris Kwan (CAS’11, GRS’11) and John Magee (GRS’04, ’11), have developed new software for the Camera Mouse, as well as adapting it to popular programs like Microsoft Word. The Camera Mouse software has been downloaded over 100,000 times.

Margrit earned her PhD degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1995. She received the National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award in 2001 for developing “Video-based Interfaces for People with Severe Disabilities,” among other awards and recognitions. Margrit is currently part of a team awarded a five-year, $7.5 million Office of Naval Research grant to develop unmanned aircraft inspired by the flight mechanics and flight behavior of bats, birds, and insects.

Material from BU Today was used for this article. Read the BU Today profile on Margrit’s Camera Mouse project here.