OKLAHOMA CITY – In 2014, Carl Phelps suddenly started slurring his speech.
Phelps, a former college basketball player, referee and golfer, was always healthy.
“He was just a picture of health. This was something we never had dreamed of,” said Janice, his wife.
Doctors soon diagnosed Phelps with ALS, warning him he would soon lose the ability to do many of the things he loved.
In 2015, he began writing about the love he shares with his wife, Janice.
His hands furiously typed the story before he lost the use of his hands.
Last year, he lost the ability to talk.
Fortunately, a new device is helping Phelps say the important things in life.
“I tell Janice several times a day that I love her,” he said.
A group of students at Oklahoma Christian University developed a device that speaks for him.
“I wanted one, but it costs over $20,000. When I saw theirs, I fell for it. It brought happy tears, and I begged for it,” Phelps said.
VisuALS was developed by engineering and business students for $3,000, a fraction of the cost of similar devices.
“We’re using off-the-shelf products like off-the-shelf computer, off-the-shelf monitor and off-the-shelf eye-tracking solution, and the eye-tracking solution can be bought for under $100,” said Aubrey Gonzalez, an electrical engineering senior.
They hope to begin selling the device to the public this year.
Phelps is a beta tester and has been helping the students improve their invention.
“It is a huge blessing to have a way to communicate. I spoke to thousands and speaking was a major part of my life. It has given me a voice again,” he said.
The Oklahoma Christian students who made VisuALS just won first place at the Love’s Innovation To Enterprise competition.