Last week, we told you about Mindflex, a Mattel toy that lets players move objects with their brains. This week comes word that the same technology is making its way into a more functional application--a wheelchair that users can maneuver with thought alone.
Toyota has developed the wheelchair in collaboration with researchers in Japan. The system analyzes brain wave data using signal-processing technology and delivers neuro-feedback to the driver.
Brain wave-detecting technology, or electroencephalography (EEG), isn't new. In layman's terms, a device, usually a cap wired with sensors, detects a person's brain waves. That information is analyzed by a computer and applied to the device in question. Scientists have pursued the technology for decades, but have had difficulty achieving short response times, explains the Associated Press.
Toyota's mind-controlled wheelchair, however, has what appears to be the quickest response time yet: 125 milliseconds, or 125 thousandths of a second. The user can almost instantly steer right, left, and forward. To stop, the person in the chair must puff up a cheek, a motion that's then detected by the headpiece.
Because of this quick response time, plans are under way to turn the wheelchair into a commercial health care product. The most practical use would be for rehabilitation patients who have been paralyzed, suffered a stroke, or have other conditions that hinder their muscle control. So far, the research has centered on brain waves related to imaginary hand and foot control. However, Toyota hopes the system could ultimately be applied to brain waves generated by emotions. … Read more