Severely disabled people these days are often completely dependent on their caretakers to do even the simplest tasks. But thanks to a team of researchers from the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, even folks who can’t move their arms and legs can now virtually visit friends and family.
The team used a motorized robot that was controlled via an ECG cap by the user’s thoughts alone. While the robot was in a laboratory at EPFL, disabled folks in Italy, Germany, and Switzerland were able to make it move around while seeing what the robot’s camera is seeing. The system was also tested with healthy people to find out whether the setup needs more work to better complement disabled folks, but the results showed that both the healthy and disabled people were about equal in their ability to pilot the robot.
The users underwent about 10 days of training before testing their skills against other users. While the robot is controlled remotely, it has some smarts of its own, automatically avoiding obstacles in its way thanks to built-in sensors that detect objects in its vicinity. This way the user can provide overall directions, and the robot figuring out the details of how to get from point A to B.
Here’s an EPFL video showing off the technology: