Eye-controlled wheelchair developed for handicapped


A TINY movement of the eye is all that is needed to control the motion of an automated wheelchair developed at the University of Bradford.

The device should offer a much greater degree of independence for severely handicapped people, but the technology could also be used in the home to control televisions, lights or household appliances.

Engineers from the university’s future ubiquitous networks research group in the school of engineering, design and technology led by Prof Fun Hu and Dr Prashant Pillai released details of their work on the last day of the British Festival of Science in Bradford. It builds on research last year which involved the development of an eye-controlled robot. The robot responded too slowly to commands sent by eye movements so the team completely rewrote their software and adapted it for this new purpose. “We really had to go back to the beginning to make the technology work for electric wheelchairs,” Dr Pillai said yesterday.

Controlling the chair involves the user donning a tracking device, worn on the face like a bulky pair of glasses. A flick of the eye is enough to activate the wheelchair and all the user has to do is look in the direction he wants to travel. “We have also made the headset completely wireless,” Dr Pillai said.