Think of a word, move a wheelchair

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated a device which can control the movements of a wheelchair when its operator thinks of specific words.

The Audeo is a human-computer interface consisting of a neckband containing sensors which detect the electrical signals sent by the brain to the muscles in the larynx. The signals are transmitted wirelessly to a computer, which decodes them and matches them to pre-programmed signals before sending them to the wheelchair.

The Audeo was developed by Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman, who together set up a company called Ambient to refine the technology. They say that the signals can also be sent to a speech synthesizer.

The device detects the electrical signals generated by the brain when one is thinking of speaking. It would, therefore, be of beneift to people who have lost the ability to speak coherently but still have control over the larynx. It is not yet commercially available, but it is available to researchers carrying out research in similar fields.

Read more about the Audeo at New Scientist

2 thoughts on “Think of a word, move a wheelchair

  1. Today wheel chairs, tomorrow bionic suits. Soon quadriplegics will take over the world, MWAH HA HA HA!!!
    Seriously though, this is very exciting stuff, scifi meets real world. I read an interesting supposition, several years ago, that one day we would have machine/brain interfaces, making control of delicate machine operations that much better. It was written in the early seventies and the author assumed that such interfaces were hundreds, if not thousands of years off. Nice to see how mistaken he was. Kind of reminds me of research I did in nano-tech, when it was the high school debate topic in the U.S. More liberal estimates put our current level of development another thirty-five years off. Heady, exciting stuff, makes me aquiver with anticipation for the not so distant future.

  2. I recently attended a demonstration of the Audeo at the Adaptive Technology Seminar held at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. All of the tenants in my apartment complex have motor-control issues, largely due to cerebral palsy or spina bifida. Those who can’t speak asked “What is taking so long? Get that technology in our hands NOW!” Too bad the Ambient folks aren’t going to allow wheelchair voice control due to liability concerns…

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