An Ear Device Enabling Hands Free Wheelchair Control

Period of Performance: 05/01/2006 - 04/30/2007

$337K

Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Think-a-move
23307 Commerce Park
Beachwood, OH 44122
Principal Investigator

Abstract

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): There is a well-recognized need for devices capable of sensing and recording data from physiological sources and converting such input into usable control signals. A device of this nature that could generate control signal input without external bodily movement would significantly enhance quality of life issues for many of the physically impaired. The use of power wheelchairs in particular would expand greatly in scope and utility from the development of a feedback control system with this capacity. Such a device would enable individuals suffering from conditions such as spinal cord injury, diseases effecting the nervous system and brain, arthritis, stroke, and repetitive motion damage, with the capability to far more effectively use assist devices such as mechanized wheelchairs. Think-A-Move, Ltd., introduces a method for detecting tongue movement, and generating a control instruction corresponding to that movement in real-time to enable patients with limited extremity function control of power wheelchairs. This method consists of detecting specific tongue motions through monitoring of air pressure in the aural cavity, and correlating air flow in the ear-canal to tongue motion. To our knowledge, our device is the only tongue-based human machine interface that does not involve obtrusive insertion within the oral cavity. In Phase I, Think-A-Move demonstrated the feasibility of using this technology for "hands free" power wheelchair control. Our system demonstrated itself capable of recognizing tongue movements with over 96%-99% accuracy, and of directing a simulated power wheelchair in response to said tongue movements. Phase II will expand on this accomplishment to produce a commercial-ready device for power wheelchair control. Commercial partnerships with wheelchair control component manufacturers are already in place to insure this unique technology reaches market