About the Enable team

Microsoft Research blog


Our history

Our journey started with Steve Gleason, through his No White Flags project. Back in 2014, Steve challenged us to develop technologies to improve communication and mobility for people with ALS. That drove a team of inspired Microsoft employees, including researchers, engineers, designers, and managers, to quickly develop, during the first Microsoft OneWeek Hackathon, experimental interfaces to type, speak, and control a wheelchair with eye movements. The prototypes worked so well that Steve motivated us by saying “keep this work rolling”–and so we did!

In early 2015 we created the Microsoft Research NExT Enable team, and we have been busily transforming the results of those hacks into robust, reliable technologies that can be used in many applications, such as the new Eye Control feature of Windows, introduced with the Windows Fall Creators Update in late 2017.

Our team expanded in late 2016, by incorporating the Cities Unlocked project, inspired by our 3D Soundscape technology. As the user walks around, we play back through a headset information about points-of-interest nearby, and the sound is perceived as coming from where the object is located. That way, the user can build a soundscape–a mental image of the landscape nearby–from those sounds, without having to look at the screen of a mobile device. That technology can be useful for people with low vision, and for others.

Our team

Our partners

We embrace the spirit of designing not just for the user, but with the user: we design and test our ideas in close collaboration with end users and partners, including Team Gleason, the ALS Association, Guide Dogs UK, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and The Lighthouse for the Blind. We also partner with the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle to help us better understand and evaluate the impact of new interfaces on the lives of people with disabilities such as ALS.

Team Gleason logo
ALS Association Evergreen Chapter logo
Guide Dogs UK logo

Guide Dogs for the Blind logo
The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired logo
Swedish Neuroscience Institute logo