Wheelchair controlled by facial expressions, eyes and voice commands is here
Wheelchairs have come a long way since they were maneuvered by hand. They are now moved with the brain or steered by a motor. Now, a team of researchers in Brazil is finalizing a prototype of a wheelchair that works using facial recognition. In addition to facial expressions, the wheelchair called Wheelie can also be controlled by head movement, speech and eyes. Developed by HOO.BOX, Wheelie wants to be a handsfree solution for anyone recovering from stroke, suffering with cerebral palsy or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Wheelie is designed to use Intel Realsense technology that understands user’s facial or voice commands and translates them to the wheelchair. The robotic wheelchair is connected to 3D camera running on Intel’s RealSense technology installed on a computer/laptop. Realsense tracks up to 80 different points on the face. These facial expressions are accurately detected and provided as commands to maneuver the wheelchair.
Wheelie links expressions such as smile (half and full), eyebrow lift, wrinkling nose, pout, tongue out and puffed cheeks as commands to drive the wheelchair in desired direction.
Patients post stroke or some other ailment can have problem controlling their facial muscles. Also different people can have different facial expressions. For such wheelchair users, Wheelie can also be steered with head movement and eye tracking.
Voice interaction is also possible with the Wheelie. The wheelchair very amicably takes voice commands to steer safely in the direction commanded. You can command the wheelchair to move forward, turn right, left or come to a halt. For now the wheelchair takes directional commands in English and Portuguese only.
Wheelie can also take commands by tracking the eye movement. For anyone who has problem making facial expressions or moving the head, eye movement can be an ideal way to drive a wheelchair. By looking at specific corners of the computer screen the wheelchair can be driven in desired direction.
The Wheelie developers have received funding to boost the project. According to Hoo.Box they are all set to roll out Wheelie in the market by 2018.