About 700,000 Australians live with severe disabilitymany entirely dependent on someone else to move.
They may soon be more mobile thanks to the Thought-controlled Intelligent Machine (TIM), developed at the University of Technology Sydney.
Biomedical engineering PhD student Jordan Nguyen will be demonstrating the chair at a free public lecture as part of the Ultimo Science Festival, showing how the chair can be moved by thinking about a task such as turning a Rubiks Cube or composing a letter.
The chair can be navigated without body movement and can also sense its surroundings, says Jordan.
Seven years ago, after a diving accident, Jordan was temporarily paralysed. Even though he recovered relatively quickly, the experience gave him a keen appreciation of how it feels to have mobility and independence restricted.
I got to experience paralysis for a day and after doing some research later, I found that there just werent enough mobility options for people with severe disability, he says.
Jordan began his research into TIM as part of his final year undergraduate project and was awarded a scholarship to continue the research.
Weve now tested TIM with wheelchair users and in a couple of months, well start testing the chair with the target marketthose that cannot use traditional wheelchairs or current control technologies.
With TIM, its mostly thought-controlled, for example, if you want to go right, think of a Rubiks cube rotating, and if you want to stop, you close your eyes.
Jordan is also part of the work to commercialise the chair and make it available to those who need it most.
In addition to his engineering exploits, Jordan also came fourth in the 2010 Cleo Bachelor of the Year.
The demonstration and lecture is on 6pm Tuesday 21 August at the University of Technology Sydney Great Hall. More information at: ultimosciencefestival.com/2012/a-thought-controlled-wheelchair-named-tim/
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