Friday, July 13, 2007

Technology lets folks turn on TV by twitching eyebrows

There is an interesting assistive technology device being fine tuned in Singapore.

When this device is finished being refined, it will let users
Switch on the TV by twitching their eyebrows.
(Note: I am having problems making the link work, but if you do a right mouse click on the link, select "copy shortcut," and copy this into the "Open" command or address bar of your web browser without the final / at the end, it will open the article.)

This device is newsworthy, because of the pricing approach of the students who created the product to aid elderly people and those with a disability that makes hand operation of a remote control impossible.

The following passage was published on the Singapore News web article linked above:
“The device works by detecting muscle movements of the eyebrows to trigger the required function.
A band with sensors is held together by a velcro strip and is wrapped as close to the eyebrow level as possible. This strip is wired to a control pad which has indicator lights flashing on the function - either to change channels or increase volume and to trigger an alarm bell. The person just has to wait for the light to jump to the desired function on the pad before raising his eyebrows to trigger the change in channels or volume.
The infrared signal from the device can be picked up within a 5m-radius of the equipment.
For example, one of the paralysed patients who tried the device could only blink his eyes but it was enough to make the device work.”

While there are other assistive technology products on the market that can do similar operations, the goal of the three final-year electrical engineering students at Ngee Ann Polytechnic who have developed this device is to make it affordable. While related products sell for $1,000 to $7,000, according to one of the students, they plan to make their product available for under $100. Assistive technology that is designed with the full intention to help people with disabilities and not set out to make the developers lots of cash is news indeed.

The developers are also not limiting their vision for the application of the device. While their professor's original idea for the project was something that could ultimately be used to help operate the wheelchair, the students went beyond that. They also hope to make it do more than just operate a television. They want to make it function as a remote control for fans and lights as well.

Keep pushing, folks. I’m sure there are other applications that it can be used for.


Axistive said...

What if the user sneezes? I wonder how they could work out all of the bugs and natural hazards that they'd need to to make this work perfectly.

Ron Graham said...

That’s a very valid concern and one I hadn’t even thought of. It is definitely something the developers need to address.