Text Size: a  |   a 

Teens Build an Eye-Controlled Wheelchair From Scratch

 September 9th, 2015

It seems that 2 German teenagers have made a huge breakthrough in disability technology. They were able to build a low-cost eye-controlled manual wheelchair from scratch. The teens, named Myrijam Stoetzer and Paul Foltin, won first prize in the “world of work” category in Germany’s Jugen Forscht. This was a competition involving young designers and engineers.

Wheelchair users have a group of specific needs, with many rely on chairs due to paralysis or conditions that interfere with their ability to move. For many, manual wheelchairs are sufficient enough, with the user being able to operate it by hand. Some prefer a hand control that is located on the arm rest of the chair. Steven Hawking uses a chair that moves based on the twitches of his facial muscles.

These chairs all can do the job but can be very expensive, which can pose a problem for people with low-income or poor insurance. The teens sought out to make this as affordable as possible for everyone. The design of this chair uses an ordinary pair of glasses without lenses, mounted with a webcam and set of LEDs.

The user operates the chair with eye movements that are processed through a Raspberry Pi system that controls a less-expensive manual chair. The system has a safeguard to avoid accidental movements that can be set manually. An example would be a twitch of the tongue or cheek. The chair is highly customizable, allowing for users to program their own eye movements as well as their own muscle controls.

 

Given that the power chairs on the market now cost thousands of dollars, this development could pave the way to independence for patients suffering from Multiple Sclerosis.