A working prototype of a wheelchair controlled by thoughts, was demonstrated live to the public in Sydney this Monday. The wheelchair can be navigated either by thoughts or automatically through crowds for a limited time using its own robotic brain. In the future it might have its own personality, says Professor Hung Nguyen, chief researcher and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and IT at the University of Technology Sydney.As we reported earlier thought-controlled wheelchairs have great potential to open door to a new frontier of brain-computer interface technology.
“We’ve started with the wheelchair because there’s a definite need for it,” says Prof. Nguyen, who has worked in the field for almost twenty years, and who believes that sars and household entertainment systems will be operated with the power of thought in the future.
Prof. Nguyen’s son, Jordan, 27, seven years ago almost paralysed himself after an injury from diving into a pool. “I was lucky I didn’t break my neck,” says Jordan, who conducted research for the thought-controlled wheelchair for his PhD studies, says. “There’s only just a few technologies to control a wheelchair if you’re disabled from the neck down.”
The wheelchair made by the father and son his has successfully passed through the first clinical trials.
“We’ve now tested TIM with wheelchair users and in a couple of months, we’ll start testing the chair with the target market—those that cannot use traditional wheelchairs or current control technologies.”
“With TIM, it’s mostly thought-controlled, for example, if you want to go right, think of a Rubik’s cube rotating, and if you want to stop, you close your eyes.”
According to Jordan there is a good chance that the wheelchair will be commercially available in one to five years depending upon funding.
Here is a news report about the wheelchair, it was recorded with a video camera straight from TV so the quality is not the best.