Disabled inventor’s eye-controlled wheelchair wins top prize of $196,000
Life is very difficult for people with disability who are dependent on caregivers to move from one place to the other in a wheelchair. Especially for people with motor disability which limits them from using electric wheelchairs. To get over this problem for people with such disabilities, Patrick Joyce from Wells, Somerset, Steve Evans from Thames and David Hopkinson from Ditton inSurrey have developed an Eyegaze technology module called Eyedrivomatic.
This device connects to any electric wheelchair and controls it with the movement of eyes only. The same technology that is used in Eyegaze which allows people with MND to speak with the help of a computer with eye gaze.
You’ll be surprised to learn that 46-year old Patrick Joyce the lead developer of this module is himself suffering from Motor Neurone Disease but can operate his wheelchair with hands. Whereas, his fellow developer Steve Evans who also suffers from the same disease can only move his eyes and is dependent on caretakers. That is quite startling and puts even more weight into this development which took almost 2 years to materialize.
Their efforts have finally been rewarded as they have won the $196,000 (£128,000) 2015 Hackaday prize which is about making innovative things that make a difference to the users. The alternative prize is a trip to Space, but the trio opted for cash prize given their current condition to support their family, and otherwise too, all the three would not be able to avail the space trip collectively.
Personally the money comes at an opportune moment as our house is too small and we couldn’t afford to move. I wasn’t supposed to live as long as I have, and we hadn’t planned on me still being alive when our kids were teenagers. I doubt Eyedrivomatic will be commercially developed. There are liability issues that would probably prevent it happening. But … I designed it to be easy to build at home.