As many readers may already know, I am really outraged by the pathetically weak computer systems that underlie the Tobii (and some other systems...). For a device costing $20K one would expect more than a low-power 32-bit CPU and 1-2GB of RAM. The computer hardware would fetch around $500 by itself. Is the software and eyegaze device really worth $19K? Having licensed high-end software for corporate development use in my career, I can comfortably say no.
I was recently helping a friend investigate adding more RAM to his Tobii AAC system. It turned out that the system only had one slot for RAM (most others have two, allowing for 2 x 2GB = 4GB maximum in 32-bit computers). This was very disappointing to say the least.
When my friend put it all back together, the Tobii wouldn't boot. He had to send it back to Tobii for repair. Today he was told a new RAM card would cost $300!
The original part cost less than $50 brand new, and is so old it appears to be no longer manufactured. Suitable replacement parts run an average of $35. $300 is outrageous for installing a 2GB memory board. Essentially, after 100% product mark-up, Tobii is charging over $200/hour for service work with a one hour minimum (the installation procedure is 20 minutes maximum). Geek Squad could do this for $100 with parts included. And you wouldn't have to ship your unit to Europe.
It's ridiculous that systems meant to be a person's sole method of communication in 2012 are produced using technology that belongs in 1999. We have 64-bit computers costing less than $1000 and purely 32-bit operating systems are end of life (meaning that platform is abandoned for development and support). Why are the severely disabled treated as second-class electronic citizens?
Fortunately alternatives exist to Tobii and the other systems using underpowered hardware. I am severely behind in publishing my review of a good one. However, even these alternatives are in the 5-figure price range.
Because of this combination of high price and poor performance, certain groups have taken to developing systems that are not based on a single computer system and which are within the individual purchasing ability of almost every PALS. In the future I will be talking more about these so stay tuned.