Just by thinking of a color, the avant-garde prototype of mind controlled wheelchair that a group of young university students from Ecuador tries to perfect to improve the lifestyle of paraplegic or quadriplegic people.
For a year it was designed in the University of the Americas (UDLA) this low-cost prototype, where thoughts make you move thanks to a headband (placed on the user’s forehead) that collects information from the brain and send it to a controller (small computer), which processes the data.
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“It has a delay of exactly one second in receiving and sending the information,” he details to Efe Charles Abbotof the Faculty of Telecommunications Engineering of the UDLA, who to his 25 years He is part of the team that has developed this prototype more typical of science fiction.
The particularity of this model over other similar ones developed in other countries is “the signal handling and processing” to move the chair with thoughts in certain colors) forward, backward, right and left, and not just to two sides, Abad specifies.
Also, the chair shows the interface versatility BCI (Brain Control Interface) to generate new technologies when controlled by a microprocessor, such as Arduino.
cheap to produce
With a donated wheelchair and motors provided by UDLA, the students only invested 200 dollars on the controller and headband.
The controller cost $20, but if bought in bulk the price would drop to $5, meaning “seat and everything, a cheap design we could do it for 500 dollars”, says Abad.
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The automation system is designed with MPU-6050 (accelerometer), HCSR04 (ultrasonic), HC-05 (Bluetooth) sensors, and a TGAM module (ThinkGear Asic Module-BCI).
This type of technology “is not new, it is used in video gamesfor projects or prototypes, but it is just being implemented with useful functionalities”, says Abad, who participates in the project after having suffered a calf injury, which led him to imagine his life without being able to move.
“The first thing that occurred to me was that I didn’t want to be a burden to anyone,” he said, noting that what motivated the realization of the project was to give independence to those who suffer some type of disability that impedes their normal mobility.
list in a month
If they had the necessary money to develop the project, an amount of around 3,000 dollars, Abad believes that assembling a chair and getting it up and running would take as little as a monthsince they have already overcome the most complicated phase, which was to develop a stable algorithm.
“We do not plan to leave it in project, because we put a lot of effort into both knowledge and research. We want to do it, perhaps little by little, even with our own savings”, he underlines.
For Carlos Carrionprofessor of the Telecommunications career at UDLA, one of the great advantages of the prototype is the use of free hardware, because it reduces costs and allows modifications without major complications.
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At the moment they work in the improvement of security to test the model with people who have mobility problems and evaluate the installation of sensors that activate a brake to avoid accidents when they detect that the chair is on an inclined plane.
“It is a project that gives for many things and to continue experimenting. It would be necessary to see the possibility of invest in engines that are more powerful and have lower energy consumption”, added Carrión, noting that the system can be sold separately so that interested parties can adapt it to other wheelchairs.
philosophy is “not profit, because a person with these problems is already economically affected”Carrión told Efe, noting that the product “can be extrapolated to other types of projects with the same control approach with BCI.”
The entire team weighs about 50 kiloswhich is why the experts are also analyzing the use of other materials to lighten prototype.
Also, it is required training that allows the user to focus on the color defined in the algorithm to move the wheelchair.
“Possibly, in the future, with a little more development of algorithms, we can get to see these science fiction things, that we can control everything with thought”, he finished.