Skip to main content

3D motion technology lets wheelchair users move with the wink of an eye

brazil brain control wheelchair facial
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Controlling a wheelchair is hard enough when you have full operation of your hands. It is next to impossible if you have a condition such as cerebral palsy, which makes it difficult to move your hands with precision. Researchers from Brazil may have a solution that allows for this precision movement — an interface that controls the wheelchair using facial, head, or iris movements.

The team began its work on the wheelchair in 2011 by exploring the feasibility of using brain-computer-interface technology to bridge the gap between the brain and the wheelchair. After studying the problem on paper, the team decided to work first on controlling the wheelchair using external cues instead of the more complicated brain-control interface. Researchers built their first prototype using a standard motorized wheelchair that was modified using sensors and cameras. The team first removed the joystick typically used to control the movement of the chair and replaced it with a suite of sensors that could both detect variations in floor surface and measure the distance of objects and walls surrounding the wheelchair.

Once the chair hardware modifications were complete, the researchers designed a control interface that used a 3D camera with RealSense technology. Similar to Microsoft Kinect for the Xbox, RealSense receives input from a depth-sensing camera that monitors facial and body expressions. These expressions are then translated by the system into commands to control the wheelchair.

“The camera can identify more than 70 facial points around the mouth, nose and eyes. By moving these points, it is possible to get simple commands, such as forward, backward, left or right and, most importantly, stop,” says researcher Eleri Cardozo.

As an added benefit, the wheelchair also is equipped with Wi-Fi and a remote control feature that allows a caregiver to control the wheelchair over an internet connection. When the wheelchair user gets tired, the caregiver can take over control of the chair and guide the occupant to a safe spot. After successfully receiving additional funding, the team now is working on adding BCI technology to the wheelchair setup. The team plans to eventually sell its wheelchair commercially in Brazil for less than R$14,000, or $4,000 U.S.

Editors' Recommendations

Kelly Hodgkins
Kelly's been writing online for ten years, working at Gizmodo, TUAW, and BGR among others. Living near the White Mountains of…
This AI cloned my voice using just three minutes of audio
acapela group voice cloning ad

There's a scene in Mission Impossible 3 that you might recall. In it, our hero Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) tackles the movie's villain, holds him at gunpoint, and forces him to read a bizarre series of sentences aloud.

"The pleasure of Busby's company is what I most enjoy," he reluctantly reads. "He put a tack on Miss Yancy's chair, and she called him a horrible boy. At the end of the month, he was flinging two kittens across the width of the room ..."

Read more
Digital Trends’ Top Tech of CES 2023 Awards
Best of CES 2023 Awards Our Top Tech from the Show Feature

Let there be no doubt: CES isn’t just alive in 2023; it’s thriving. Take one glance at the taxi gridlock outside the Las Vegas Convention Center and it’s evident that two quiet COVID years didn’t kill the world’s desire for an overcrowded in-person tech extravaganza -- they just built up a ravenous demand.

From VR to AI, eVTOLs and QD-OLED, the acronyms were flying and fresh technologies populated every corner of the show floor, and even the parking lot. So naturally, we poked, prodded, and tried on everything we could. They weren’t all revolutionary. But they didn’t have to be. We’ve watched enough waves of “game-changing” technologies that never quite arrive to know that sometimes it’s the little tweaks that really count.

Read more
Digital Trends’ Tech For Change CES 2023 Awards
Digital Trends CES 2023 Tech For Change Award Winners Feature

CES is more than just a neon-drenched show-and-tell session for the world’s biggest tech manufacturers. More and more, it’s also a place where companies showcase innovations that could truly make the world a better place — and at CES 2023, this type of tech was on full display. We saw everything from accessibility-minded PS5 controllers to pedal-powered smart desks. But of all the amazing innovations on display this year, these three impressed us the most:

Samsung's Relumino Mode
Across the globe, roughly 300 million people suffer from moderate to severe vision loss, and generally speaking, most TVs don’t take that into account. So in an effort to make television more accessible and enjoyable for those millions of people suffering from impaired vision, Samsung is adding a new picture mode to many of its new TVs.
[CES 2023] Relumino Mode: Innovation for every need | Samsung
Relumino Mode, as it’s called, works by adding a bunch of different visual filters to the picture simultaneously. Outlines of people and objects on screen are highlighted, the contrast and brightness of the overall picture are cranked up, and extra sharpness is applied to everything. The resulting video would likely look strange to people with normal vision, but for folks with low vision, it should look clearer and closer to "normal" than it otherwise would.
Excitingly, since Relumino Mode is ultimately just a clever software trick, this technology could theoretically be pushed out via a software update and installed on millions of existing Samsung TVs -- not just new and recently purchased ones.

Read more