2.03.2007

Thought-Powered Wheelchair
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Wired covers a instance of a thought-powered device, in this case, of a wheelchair...

Patients who suffer from disease or injury that leave them unable to move have little hope of independent mobility. But that may be about to change. Researchers are developing a thought-controlled robotic wheelchair.

Spanish scientists have begun work on a new brain-computer interface, or BCI, capable of converting thought into commands that a wheelchair can execute.

Other researchers have already had some success with hard-wired brain computer interfaces, but they're powered by large computers and are physically plugged into the brain.

The Spanish researchers hope to develop a small, mobile interface that works with electroencephalogram electrodes, or EEG, placed on the scalp.

"We are planning to use non-invasive devices to record the rhythms from the surface of the skull," says Javier Minguez, a researcher at the University of Zaragoza in Spain. "We also plan to use this system with a school for disabled children that we collaborate with and (we) prefer to use non-invasive techniques with these children."

The Spanish Ministry of Education and Science has invested 180,000 euros in the "Biomedical Evaluation Of Robots to Assist Human Mobility" project. The goal is to bring mobility and a degree of independence to people with limited motor capabilities as the result of injury, disability or old age.

While EEGs have a reputation for providing very crude signals, advances in decoding algorithms yield patterns that are precise enough to control the movements of a wheelchair.

"You're not going to be using EEGs to control a robotic arm to play the

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