Friday, September 17, 2010

Brain Controlled Wheelchair

Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have developed a wheelchair that can be controlled by patients with their thoughts. The technology combines an electroencephalograph (EEG) with software that interpolates the intent of the patient.
EEG has limited accuracy and can only detect a few different commands. Maintaining these mental exercises when trying to maneuver a wheelchair around a cluttered environment can also be very tiring, says, José del Millán, director of noninvasive brain-machine interfaces at the Federal Institute of Technology, who led the project. "People cannot sustain that level of mental control for long periods of time," he says. The concentration required also creates noisier signals that can be more difficult for a computer to interpret.

Shared control addresses this problem because patients don't need to continuously instruct the wheelchair to move forward; they need to think the command only once, and the software takes care of the rest. "The wheelchair can take on the low-level details, so it's more natural," says Millán.

The wheelchair is equipped with two webcams to help it detect obstacles and avoid them. If drivers want to approach an object rather than navigate around it, they can give an override command. The chair will then stop just short of the object.

Read the full article from Technology Review titled, Wheelchair Makes the Most of Brain Control:Artificial intelligence improves a wheelchair system that could give paralyzed people greater mobility.

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