Light the way
... with virtual control
Sudley Springs - VA US
Tell us what you do (or what your team or organization
does) and the specific challenge you faced.
After watching his mother suffer through painful carpal tunnel
and subsequent surgeries, Bruce Howard, an electrical engineer,
decided to tackle the problems associated with human computer
interactions. Devices such as the keyboard and mouse were
restrictive and could cause long-term injuries. He realized that
the placement of an input device was critical and that the most
convenient location was close to a personís hands since thatís
what they used to enter data. Next he wanted a device that didnít
obscure the hand but was still capable of performing the
necessary functions. For months he moved his fingers back and
forth simulating a typing motion, believing there had to be a
way to detect that movement and communicate it back to the
What was your moment of truth?
During his days as an EMI Engineer, he worked with optical
isolators and also knew of people creating optical keyboards
using beam interruption. In order to interrupt a beam you had to
have electronics on both sides so one of the two sensors could
tell when it wasnít receiving the beam due to a finger
blocking the signal. In order to create a mechanism that did not
obstruct the hand (one of his original parameters) he realized
that if he made the light detectors sensitive enough, it could
sense a finger in mid air and then reflect that signal back.
Known as optical reflectance, this would only require
electronics on one side. The reason he was so adamant about
keeping his hands free is that in addition to an input device,
he wanted to use the controller as a guitar special effects
transmitter and needed to be able to play the instrument.
Knowing that this was a very cool idea, he quit his job and
filed for a provisional patent in March of 1997. Unknowing to
him, however, was the fact that he had created one of the first
What were the results?
The initial device was the length of your forearm. Today the
Lightglove is as small as a pager, soon to be the size of a
watch. One man working long and hard hours in his basement has
created a new way to push a button made of light. Recently, a
woman with ALS, having only 3/8-inch finger mobility, was able
to turn on a light without touching anything. Barely audible,
she said, ďNever give up.Ē Surgeons and dentists will be
able to input data while remaining sterile. All because one man
wouldnít give up and his understanding wife agreed :)
What's your parting tip?
If you have a dream, donít give up. Believe in your soul, you
will be the one who breaks through.
|What role did technology play in
your success? What revolutionary, business transforming
thing has your company's technology made possible?
In the process of creating this new technology, both
hardware and software were needed. A true renaissance
man, Howard not only designed and assembled the hardware
(using a stereoscopic microscope) but also programmed
every chip and constructed the first Lightglove
application program. For hardware this included: pc
board layout, board assembly, optics and test. For
software: programming using VHDL, Assembler, C++ and
becoming a Microsoft Developer to write the application.
He did it all. He created a way to control practically
everything without touching anything. www.lightglove.com
Comments that readers have made about this submission:
A quantum leap in human electronics interaction.
Jon Harding - Manassas, VA USA
What a wonderufl device! ANd what wonderful things it will
be able to do for people. My hat's off to Mr. Howard!
Cyndi Voller - Coconut Creek, FL USA
I have seen the Lightglove. It is a device that came out
before its time. With more and more injury understanding about
the hands and wrists this device can help make people more
A. D. Jordan - Potomac, MD, US
His innovative technology will help many people and I wish
him the best!
Terri Taylor - Woodbridge, VA
Mr. Howard seems to be an engineer with not only great
technical skills and determination, but one who also has
Deborah Blanchard Bruna - Fairfax, VA, USA
This sounds absolutely amazing. As soon as it goes into
production I want one!! Hooray and encouragement to Mr. Howard
(and Mrs. Howard, too). DON'T GIVE UP!
Nancy and Stefan Herzog - Taylors, South Carolina, USA
Great Idea, Unlimited potential!!
John Snyder - Arlington VA
Mr. Howard is giving us a glance of how our lives are
likely to improve within the near future, with some wonderful
applications of technology.
Piero Morosini - Italy
What a magnificent tool for now, and our future. Mr. Howard
is without question a "disruptive engineer" and
visionary on top of it all. Where can I get one?
C.A. Sorensen - Milpitas, CA
Pushing a button of light is quite a radical idea. For
individuals who only believe what they can see and touch, it
requires a leap of faith to believe that something can happen
when nothing is physically "touched". This idea was
not arrived at by committee. It was not a concept created out
of unlimited funding and resources. Some day the miraculous
story will come out and not only a new technology will be born
but a new chapter in vision and faith will have been written.
MG Howard - Sudley Springs, VA USA
Moe Benesch - Springfield, VA USA
Someday I plan on meeting spiritually guided people like
Oprah or Paul McCartney and having them as investors. This is
the kind of project that will help thousands of people if we
are allowed to succeed. Our path has been divinely guided
which doesn't mean it's been easy. Just when we were thinking
of giving up, something would happen to motivate us forward.
Like our entry when Gail Rupertus with ALS said "Never
give up." Hard to say no to someone putting up such a
courageous battle. Gives you strength to carry on...
MG Howard - Sudley Springs, VA USA
Unbelievable !! I must, once this goes into production and
sale, get not only one but several for myself and family
members in Singapore !! Great job, Bruce !! I hope your two
boys grow up just like dad.
Judy Loh - Singapore
Awesome! What a magnificent techno-tool.
Veronique Holbrook - The Netherlands
Wow! I hope to be just like E.T. with this light source at
my fingertip. This is going right to the TOP of my Christmas
wish list! Thanks for being true to your dream, Bruce.
S. LeGault - San Jose, CA
Well done! Your invention for the betterment of mankind is
Albert CHOW - Singapore
I saw the device at a technology conference and it was hard
to believe, but it does work. It frees the hands from a
traditional keyboard and allows for the next phase of office
David de la Tour - Washington, DC