ATHENS-ALSHARQIYA June 18: Alexandra Kerlido sits in a wheelchair on stage in Athens, and as soon as she moves her eyes on a computer screen in front of her, the 21-year-old student fills the air with enchanting harp music.
The student, who has a form of cerebral palsy that prevents her from using her hands or speaking, plays through the i-running program, a visually controlled digital software that allows people with disabilities to play music, something she would never have imagined becomes possible.
"It felt weird... I had never imagined something like this," said Alexandra, using computer-speaking software, as she described experiencing i-harp for the first time at her home on Lesbos with designer Zacharias Vampakosis.
Vamvakosis, a computer technologist and musician, thought of designing the program when a musician's friend was injured in a motorcycle accident just before a party they were supposed to play together.
“At first, it was not clear if he would be able to move his arms and hands and play music again,” he said of his friend, who was playing the Cretan harp. “It was quite shocking to me, and I realized there was a need for such technology.”
Digital eye-tracking technology is widely used in electronic games, security and medicine, and it monitors eye movements to carry out commands. The eye rests on each note on a wheel drawn on the screen,
The average is to play three or four notes per second. This program can "play" 25 musical instruments.
Vampakosis teaches the program at schools for the disabled in Barcelona, where he has studied, and says more than 2,000 people have downloaded the program.
Alexandra's parents said they were in tears when they heard their daughter play i-harp for the first time.
As for Alexandra, she says she can't imagine life without music, and says, "When I'm sad or happy, I play music."