Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is among the latest to take part in the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ALS.
ALS — amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease — is a neuromuscular disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing those with the disease to progressively lose control of their muscle movements. It often leads to paralysis and death within two to five years of diagnosis, according to the ALS Association. There is no known cure.
Nadella’s participation in the Ice Bucket drenching was spurred by a challenge from former NFL player Steve Gleason, a former safety with the New Orleans Saints and a former football star at Washington State University. Gleason, who has ALS and uses a wheelchair, has been working with Microsoft for a few years now, using the company’s Surface tablet, along with Tobii eye-tracking technology, to communicate. The Surface tablet turns what he “types” on the tablet with his eye movements into speech.
Recently, Gleason worked with a team from Microsoft during the company’s first global hackathon. The team, called Ability Eye Gaze, worked with Gleason to develop ways to keep his Surface always on, to improve the speed at which his eye movements turn what he “types” into speech, and to allow him to move his wheelchair using a joystick guided by his eyes.
That team was announced Wednesday as the grand prize winner of Microsoft’s company-wide hackathon, in which Microsoft employees worldwide worked on some 2,700 different projects.
The Ability Eye Gaze team also got the chance Wednesday to dump ice water on Nadella, who, after his drenching, challenged Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and Google CEO Larry Page to take part in their own Ice Bucket Challenges.
[Update Aug. 14: The ALS Association on Thursday thanked those who have accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge so far, noting that the association has received $7.6 million in donations from July 29 to Aug. 14, compared to $1.4 million during the same time period last year.]