A motorized wheelchair is a must for people with mobility issues. But people with extremely limited motor control may even have difficulty controlling the best motorized wheelchair.
Now a company based in Brazil has developed a new wheelchair controller that may give people with severe mobility challenges a way to drive their wheelchair using just facial expressions, USA Today reported.
Sao Paulo, Brazil-based Hoobox Robotics and Intel worked together to develop the Wheelie 7, a controller mechanism that helps disabled people control a motorized wheelchair using different expressions, from raising an eyebrow to sticking out their tongue. The wheelchair controller uses artificial intelligence to “read” the expressions.
Paulo Pinheiro is the CEO and cofounder of Hoobox.
The mechanism is useful for people who can’t use their hands to control a joystick.
No special training that is required to use the controller, which is in the development stage. A caregiver or family member can use an app to assign which facial expressions do what, including moving left, right, forward, backwards and stopping.
The Wheelie prototype is being tested by more than 60 people with quadriplegia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or age-related disabilities.
says testers have been using Wheelie on average nearly 4 hours per day and “travel” an estimated distance including rotations of 700 meters day. The kit can work in sunlight and dim lighting settings, he says, and is compatible with 95 percent of the motorized wheelchairs that are out there. Pinheiro adds that the kit can be installed in 7 minutes, thus the “7” in the name of the product.
On International Day of Persons with Disabilities Dec. 3, Hoobox plans to open up 100 spots on a waiting list. People on the list will receive the kit, which would normally go for about $300 per month under a subscription model, for free in exchange for user feedback. Pinheiro said he expects the next prototype to come out in March.