Thought-propelled wheelchair developed in Italy

Mar 06, 2009
Professor Matteo Matteucci (R) and Ph.d student Bernardo Dal Seno (C), wearing a skullcap mounted with electrodes and wired to a computer as he sits on a special wheel chair at the Politecnico di Milan department in Milan. Italian researchers have developed a wheelchair that obeys mental signals sent to a computer, they said Friday.

Italian researchers have developed a wheelchair that obeys mental signals sent to a computer, they said Friday.

The researchers at Milan's Polytechnical Institute artificial intelligence and robotics laboratory took three years to develop the system, Professor Matteo Matteucci told AFP.

The user is connected to a computer with electrodes on his or her scalp, and sends a signal by concentrating for a few seconds on the name of the desired destination -- kitchen, bedroom, bathroom -- displayed on a screen.

The computer then guides the wheelchair to the selected room using a preset programme.

"We don't read minds, but the brain signal that is sent," Matteucci said.

The chair is equipped with two laser beams that can detect obstacles.

The Milan lab is already in contact with companies that could produce a commercial prototype aimed at quadriplegics, Matteucci said, adding that it could take between five and 10 years.

Such a wheelchair would cost only 10 percent more than a classic motorised wheelchair, according to the institute.

Research to develop the so-called Brain Computer Interface began in the early 1980s around the world.

Matteucci said a handful of other researchers were working on similar projects to his, including the Federal Polytechnic School in Lausanne, Switzerland.

"Eventually, a research consortium should be set up that will use all these projects as a basis for finding the best approach," he said.

"We've now started work on getting the chair to operate outdoors using a GPS," Matteucci added.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: Toyota cuts price of automatic braking safety devices

Related Stories

Hawking's speech software goes open source for disabled

Dec 02, 2014

The system that helps Stephen Hawking communicate with the outside world will be made available online from January in a move that could help millions of motor neurone disease sufferers, scientists said Tuesday.

Beyond human: Exploring transhumanism

Nov 25, 2014

What do pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, Iron Man and flu vaccines all have in common? They are examples of an old idea that's been gaining in significance in the last several decades: transhumanism. The word ...

Recommended for you

Internet of things should be developable for all

Mar 30, 2015

Within the next five to ten years, around 100 billion different devices will be online. A large part of the communication takes place solely between machines, and to ensure that they can communicate, the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.