Weekend Fun: Mind Controlled Wheelchair
Ambient is developing a motorized wheelchair that moves by thought. Sound far fetched? Well the company has publicly demonstrated the technology and is working with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to begin test trials. The wheelchair works by intercepting signals sent from occupant’s brain to their voice box.
The system will work providing a person can still control their larynx, or “voice box”, which may be the case even if the lack the muscle coordination necessary to produce coherent speech. Called Audeo, the larynx control system was developed by researchers Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The system works with a special neckband that houses sensors interpretes electrical impulses sent to larynx muscles. It then relays the signals, via an encrypted wireless link, to a nearby computer. The computer decodes these signals and matches them to a series of pre-recorded “words” determined during training exercises.
Ambient also claims the words can also be sent to a speech synthesiser, allowing a paralysed person to “speak” out loud. Recent refinements to the algorithms used may make it possible to interpret whole sentences thought out by the user. This could potentially restore near-normal speech to people who have not spoken for years.
More information on Ambient.