Users can think their way around obstacles

Photo via YouTube video

How incredible would it be for a person who can't move their arms or legs to be able to literally think their way around a room, avoiding obstacles and getting where they want to go with mind-power. A new wheelchair created by researchers at Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne combines brain messages with artificial intelligence to give hope for independent mobility to paralyzed people.

To work the chair, brain signals such as imagining moving your right arm to go right or your left arm to go left, are sent to the chair as commands, and the chair combines the commands with artificial intelligence and data from two webcams installed on its sides to maneuver around things like chairs, tables and other obstacles. Perhaps what is even more amazing, is the user needs only a few hours of training per day over the course of a week to master using the chair.

Technology Review writes, "Electroencephalography (EEG) has emerged as a promising way for paralyzed patients to control computers or wheelchairs...But EEG has limited accuracy and can only detect a few different commands."

The researchers also point out that the level of concentration needed to get around is also very tiring. Because the "shared control" used by the chair needs only one brain signal command and the chair takes care of the rest, people using this chair won't tire as quickly.

The research behind the chair is very promising though in its infancy. The efficiency of brain-to-chair communication still needs improvement. And so far, it hasn't been tested with any paralyzed patients.

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