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article imageScientists developed wheelchair controlled by mind power

By Subhabrata Das     Apr 30, 2009 in Technology
A Spanish scientist has reportedly developed an amazing wheelchair, which could be controlled by the power of thought. This wheelchair could change the life for those who are even unable to use a conventional joystick.
Dr Javier Minguez, a scientist at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, has reportedly developed the chair which could be moved by thought commands. The chair has a display screen placed in front of the user. A laser system is mounted on the front of the wheelchair which produces a 3D map of the area around it by scanning the surroundings. The chair displays the 3D map at the screen.
The user could simply steer the chair toward the desired direction by concentrating thoughts on the part of area displayed at the screen. A skullcap containing electrodes detect the brain activity of the user and locates the desired destination.
Dr Minguez said it took only 45 minutes for the volunteers to learn how to use the chair perfectly. Now he is engaged in constructing the commercial version of the chair which would be easier to use.
Dr Minguez said: “The purpose of this work was to demonstrate the usability of the wheelchair. All the subjects successfully solved all the navigation tasks and learned how to deal with the device in a similar way.”
Honda last month introduced a “mind reading” helmet which is capable to control the movements of a robot. They have also used a similar helmet which is capable to operate a telephone or a robotic hand.
The latest wheelchair uses its map displayed on the screen and the sensors to steer itself around any obstacles in the way. The image is updated constantly on the chair’s computer screen and the sensors fitted on the wheel keep a track on its position in the area as it moves around.
As the user concentrates his thoughts at a destination on the screen the brainwave changes slightly for a millisecond which is picked up by the electrodes fitted in the skullcap and the chair immediately starts moving.
A study, due to be presented at the International Robotics and Automation Conference later this month, tested the chair on five volunteers who were able to guide the chair around a laboratory by using thoughts.
Although it is not the first chair which could be controlled by thoughts, but it is the first one which allows the user to plan a route and avoid collision in real time.
The chair is still in its initial stage and has its limitations. It is reported that after using the wheelchair for two hours the wet gel used to fix the electrodes to the owner’s head begins to dry up. Now researchers have to find a new way of fixing the electrodes to the head in the commercial version.
More about Wheelchair, Spain, Javier minguez, Mind
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