Paul Pauca - Disability Research


Recent Research Projects

Wearable Unobtrusive User Interface for Assistive Communication

  1. We are investigating a new concept for assistive communication that promises to be highly portable, unobtrusive, and affordable for people with severe physical disability. The concept leverages recent work being carried out by Dr. Pauca’s research group to extend the user interface of the communication system, e.g. VERBAL VICTOR, onto the person’s body. Associated sensors and algorithms are being developed around the needs of a non-verbal subject with severe cerebral palsy and a prototype will subsequently be tested for efficacy of communication with a small set of subjects at the ALS Center. In addition, this prototype will be used to leverage new research, straddling the fields of machine learning and human-computer interaction, that can lead to end-to-end optimization of the system to the needs of additional user populations.

  2. Funded in part by Wake Forest Innovations

Planning and Prediction in Complex Environments

  1. We are investigating reinforcement learning and statistical relational learning methods, such as functional gradient boosting, to predict actions of a user. In
    assistive communication, these actions might take the form of buttons being pressed on a system like Verbal Victor. For people with ALS these actions might take the form of specialized keys showing relevant words rather than single letters. In both of these applications the idea is to minimize the number of swipes or keystrokes that the user has to do to express a particular need.

  2. Funded in part by the WFU Research Fund

Brain Boot Camp

  1. The main objective of this project is to determine whether the combination of physical and cognitive training, delivered through virtual environments, can have a positive effect in the brains of elder
    adults. Kinect-based games have been developed in-house and are currently being tested in a multidisciplinary project involving Computer Science, Health and Exercise Science, Neuroscience, and Psychology at Wake Forest.

  2. Funded in part by the WFU Translational Science Center


  1. Ally Kaminsky    Riana Freedman    David Hughes    Gavin Borg, BS ’13


  3. Sudha Kanagarajan, MS ’12    Dan Xue, MS ’12        Kyle Crossen, BS ’12        Edison Muñoz, MS ’11

  5. Tommy Guy, MS ’09    Swayze Smartt, BS ’09

Student Theses & Recent Publications

  1. BulletR. G. Freedman, J. Guo, W. H. Turkett Jr., V. P. Pauca. “Hierarchical Modeling to Facilitate Personalized Word Prediction for Dialogue,” PAIR 2013: Plan, Activity and Intent Recognition Workshop at AAAI 2013, (accepted)

  2. BulletSudha Kanagarajan. Assistive Mobile Interface Using Machine Learning. Computer Science, 2012.

  3. BulletDan Xue. Head Ball Game: A Computer Vision Based Mobile Application. Computer Science, 2012.

  4. BulletEdison F. Munoz Recuay. A Gaming Platform for Enhanced Physical and Cognitive Activity Training in Older Adults. Computer Science, 2011.

  5. BulletV. P. Pauca and R. Guy. Mobile apps for the greater good: a socially relevant approach to software engineering. SIGCSE '12 Proceedings of the 43rd ACM technical symposium on Computer Science Education, Raleigh, NC, pp. 535--540, 2012.


Major directions

We are interested in developing highly affordable modern technology that can bridge the interaction gap between computers and people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Our goal is to exploit recent advancements in machine learning, computer vision, and human computer interaction to use the person’s body as the interface between the computer and the brain, thereby reducing or eliminating the limiting effects of conventional interface devices.