Steve Evans Passes Away, Leaves An Inspiring Legacy

It is with great sadness that Hackaday learns of the passing of Steve Evans. He was one of the creators of Eyedrivomatic, the eye-controlled wheelchair project which was awarded the Grand Prize during the 2015 Hackaday Prize.

News of Steve’s passing was shared by his teammate Cody Barnes in a project update on Monday. For more than a decade Steve had been living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND). He slowly lost the function of his body, but his mind remained intact throughout. We are inspired that despite his struggles he chose to spend his time creating a better world. Above you can see him test-driving an Eyedrivomatic prototype which is the blue 3D printed attachment seen on the arm of his chair.

The Eyedrivomatic is a hardware adapter for electric wheelchairs which bridges the physical controls of the chair with the eye-controlled computer used by people living with ALS/MND and in many other situations. The project is Open Hardware and Open Source Software and the team continues to work on making Eyedriveomatic more widely available by continuing to refine the design for ease of fabrication, and has even begun to sell kits so those who cannot build it themselves still have access.

The team will continue with the Eyedrivomatic project. If you are inspired by Steve’s story, now is a great time to look into helping out. Contact Cody Barnes if you would like to contribute to the project. Love and appreciation for Steve and his family may be left as comments on the project log.

27 thoughts on “Steve Evans Passes Away, Leaves An Inspiring Legacy

    1. by working in the open source way he did, he can live through his passion even in death. i aspire to be like him and contribute to the open community with code/designs that have the potential to live longer than my body.

  1. Never heard of him, but it is always sad to learn about good people being lost when perhaps only regulation stands in the way of a cure for their disease. Heard about CRISPR? There is a very good change it can be used to cure many of these genetic disorders, or at least slow them down significantly. Except that the terminally ill are not allowed to “hack” their own DNA, because you know they may harm themselves… Is that an insane and unethical policy or what?

    1. In fairness, if you want to hack your DNA the only practical way to get the update to all your cells is to hack a virus to distribute it, and there are good reasons to worry that that could harm a lot of other people by accident. Sometimes regulations exist for valid reasons, they aren’t all inherently bad.

      Yeah, there was that guy they cured of pancreatic cancer by retraining his white blood cells to recognize the cancer cells and kill them. Of course it almost killed him first because in the course of killing his tumors they released so much toxic death crap into his bloodstream so fast he got a 105 degree fever and had to live in an ice bath for a day or two. And one of the other people they tried it on the immune cells started attacking her lungs, and there was nothing they could do to stop it. She would have died anyway, so it was probably worth a try, but there’s just a lot we don’t understand. Hacking biology is _hard_.

      1. Actually that was the state of the art ten years ago perhaps, things have move on a lot since then and people, rich well connected people have travelled to lax jurisdictions to have their DNA changed. It didn’t kill them either, but how well it worked only time will tell.

    2. ::paints a big bullseye on his pants in the ‘fly’ region::
      I would agree that anyone should be allowed to hack their DNA to their heart’s content but only if they start with some kind of irreversible voluntary sterilization. Otherwise it’s not only your DNA you’re playing with but your kids’ at least and the entire future pool at worst. Fire at will

      1. Only an issue if all cells get changed, and anyway how is that any lest dangerous than the implications of IVF when you think carefully about what that does to the gene pool?

          1. Just the gene for dangerously narrow hips, if allowed to propagate (and has been recently shown) will be terminal to the species if the c-section technology suddenly becomes unavailable. That is one growth regulation gene, that is all it takes.

            The scary thing is that it only takes the knock-out about 6 genes to turn a human into something at the intellectual level of a gorilla, but without the physical robustness of a gorilla and therefore significantly inferior.

    3. Now that’s the dumbest thing I’ve read today. Why not go the easier, cheaper and more accessible way of using mutagenic chemicals or ionizing radiation instead? The result will be the same – clueless experimenters that die painfully – however at least then there will be less political pressure to restrict research of a promising method.

  2. This is honestly what tech is all about. Sure it’s cool to be able to video call a friend. It’s a completely different thing when it’s used by blind individuals to sign and communicate in a way that was otherwise impossible or at the very least, still harder to use than if they weren’t disabled. Or an App that uses machine learning to recognize items/people in the space around them, etc… you get the point.

    So for there to be something out there that gives someone [back] the liberty to move themselves around is humbling and amazing. Furthermore, when created in the spirit of Open Source, hackers, and ‘FUBU.’ I couldn’t help but wonder why this wasn’t already a thing, if the eye tracking software already exists on the chair….

    1. There is commercially available technology to do this, but as far as I can see it requires major modifications to the chair, and is only available for some chairs. The idea of Eyedriveomatic, was that it could be retrofitted to existing chairs without modification. This makes it cheaper and more accessible. There is already a small international community working on newer and better iterations, which was always their intention.

      I have been following them as I have friends who need motorised wheel chairs. One of them ended up with a “Sip & Puff” system after he lost control of his hands. The interesting thing about Eyedriveomatic is that you could use other controllers without having to modify the hardware, other than change the controller.

      Here in the UK a power chair with such controls is very expensive, and the government has changed the criteria for disability benefits, so limiting access to them unless you can pay for it yourself. For me the most important aspect of Eyedriveomatic and other solutions coming out of the Maker community is that the increase access to enabling technology which can improve peoples quality of life. Steve and his team have done a real service to the future.

  3. Hacking and playing around is fun, I can’t imagine the joy he got out of making something so useful that would go on to help others suffering from the same illness as himself. Truly inspirational.

  4. Hackaday[dot]io has too many scripting/login hurdles for me to cross – so I never bother with it.
    That said, I’ll just drop this here:
    To the Steve’s Family: I’m sorry for your loss. I sincerely hope is work will go on in his absence.

  5. When i first saw the projects he did, i was amazed, because they were awesome.
    Then i saw the his condition, and that made me think that this man really had something,
    to be doing all of this despite his illness. Not to say that ill people should do nothing, but
    when i’m sick, i rarely do much.
    So he inspired me to do things anyway. Let’s do thing while we can, let’s improve the state of the art, the life
    of people if we can; let’s make cool things!
    Thanks, steve, and goodbye :)

  6. Hmm, fellow hackers, did you this this post :
    It seems that another great fellow hacker passed away too, also a member of eyomatic, but who also made the robotic arm for this little girl in the last prize, among other things… he suffered the same disability and was also driven by this caring force that made him help others.

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