There are many tools that allow disabled people to operate wheelchairs, including joysticks and blow tubes, but a new partnership between HOOBOX Robotics, a Brazilian company, and Intel, the chip maker, has resulted in a wheelchair controlled exclusively by face gestures.
The Wheelie, as the device is called, has a camera that constantly monitors the user’s face and when certain gestures, such as a smile or a raise of an eyebrow, trigger different actions by the wheelchair. Since there are obvious issues, such as inadvertent gestures, that must be considered, the wheelchair actually uses artificial intelligence technology to separate actual intentions from smiles and other gestures that humans naturally evoke during their waking hours.
The software allows users to customize which gestures trigger what actions and there’s not much training that is necessary to get going. There are also a number of gestures that can be used to stop the device from reading further gestures, allowing the user to be calm in knowing that the wheelchair won’t start moving in the middle of a conversation.
Here’s a short promo for The Wheelie:
Here’s a quick demo of the Wheelie:
(hat tip: USA TODAY)