A semi-autonomous wheelchair that can be controlled by users’ eye movements has been developed by researchers at the University of Trento and University of Padu in Italy.
The “gaze-guided” RoboEEye wheelchair integrates the functionalities of mobile robotic systems into a standard power wheelchair, making it possible for users who are not able to move their limbs to control the chair.
It is thought that the control system, which features a non-invasive eye tracker, monitor, and 3D camera, could be applied to other wheelchairs.
Italian wheelchair and mobility equipment supplier Blandino has already set up a venture with the University of Trent’s start-up entity Robosense to explore how the technology can be commercialised.
A number of companies have invested in developing eye-control systems for wheelchairs and it is expected to become a growing market in the future as the technology evolves.
Alessandro Luchetti and Luca Maule, two of the researchers involved in the RoboEye project, told website Tech Xplore: “Our aim was to design an innovative, cost-effective and user-friendly control system based on gaze detection for a power wheelchair to allow users with any severe motor disability to move easily and autonomously within their homes.”
The wheelchair – an early version of which was demonstrated at Rehacare three years ago – features two different strategies: one that is based on eye movements controlling frontal and angular wheelchair velocities by gazing at different areas of the monitor; and one that allows navigation towards a selected point in the environment by pointing towards the desired destination while the system autonomously plans and follows the trajectory required.
“Compared to other solutions, RoboEye is minimally invasive to its users, it integrates functionalities derived from the field of mobile robotics, it takes into account the role of uncertainty in human-machine interactions, and it is based on low-cost hardware solutions,” the researchers told the publication. “The result is an efficient and cost-effective system that ensures a user’s safety.”
See RoboEYE being demonstrated below: