Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Toyota scientists develop brain-controlled wheelchair

From SoftSailor.com. You can see a video of the device at SoftSailor.com.

Toyota has developed a brain-machine interface (BMI), which transmits the thoughts of a user to a laptop and then to a wheelchair.

BMIs were demoed before, but Toyota’s system is features a 125ms response time which means that it fives users the possibility to move easier and faster. Thanks to the Toyota BMI, a person in a wheelchair will turn right, left, move forward, backward only by thinking where they want to go. The key is how fast the commands take until they reach the wheelchair’s computer and how good it processes the commands.

The BMI development was possible thanks to the BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center which consists of the Japan government research unit Riken, and Toyota. Now, the scientists are working on devices, which will allow aging people or people who need it to control them through brain waves.

The system developed by BTCC consists of sensors positioned in the motion control areas of the brain in order to measure the electrical activity in that area. The sensors will pick up the electrical impulses and then send them to an on-board laptop to be analyzed in order to be passed to the wheelchair.

If the laptop will not process well the electrical impulses or if something goes “wrong” then Toyota’s system features an emergency stop which can be activated anytime by the user by puffing his cheeks. The good thing about the BMI is that it “adjusts” itself over time as each user’s brainwaves are different. According to the researchers, the system will learn quickly and if a user will spend 3 hours a day, then the BMI will have a 95% accuracy in one week.

Toyota is planning to commercialize this system very soon as it could have enormous implications in the healthcare system, but they have to increase the number of commands that a user can give to a device.