Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A major step forward for the disabled

Being partly disabled, and working with disabled and handicapped people as I do, I'm excited about this report from England.

Scientists have developed a wheelchair controlled by the power of thought.

The robotic chair could revolutionise life for those with severe disabilities who are unable to use a conventional joystick.

It works by creating a three-dimensional picture of the area around it, with a laser scanner. This is displayed on a screen in front of the user.

To steer the chair, the user simply concentrates their thoughts on the part of the display where they want to go.

Electrodes in a skullcap then detect the brain activity of the users - and work out their destination.

Dr Javier Minguez, who developed the chair at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, said the volunteers took just 45 minutes to learn how to use the chair safely and accurately.

He is now working on a commercial version that is even easier to use.

'The purpose of this work was to demonstrate the usability of the wheelchair,' he told New Scientist magazine.

'All the subjects successfully solved all the navigation tasks and learned how to deal with the device in a similar way.'

The chair is the latest device to be controlled by the power of thought.

Last month, car giant Honda unveiled a 'mind reading' helmet that can control the movements of a robot.

Similar helmets have been used to move a cursor on a computer screen and control a room's lights, operate a telephone and manipulate a robotic hand.

There's more at the link.

This is amazing! If we can harness the power of the brain, through electronics, to drive such devices, it'll make the lives of countless disabled and handicapped people that much more independent, interesting and worthwhile. Kudos to Dr. Minguez and his team. I look forward to seeing how this device can be developed.


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