Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Controlling A Prosthetic Arm With Thought

Jen controlling prosthetic arm with her thought
Image source: BBC
What we used to see a few years ago in movies is turning into reality. Controlling objects with just your thought? Who would have ever thought?

Jan Scheurmann, a 53 year old quadriplegic who is paralyzed from the neck down, recently managed to control a prosthetic arm with her mind to grasp and move objects with ease.

Two sensors were implanted in her brain that pick up electrical signals from around 200 individual brain cells, which later translate into commands that are used to move the arm and grab objects. The co-ordination, skill and speed she achieved only after 14 weeks of training (she was picking up objects on the second day!!) was almost similar to that of an able bodied person.

the robot arm was controlled by thought
Image source: BBC
The next plan is to attach the prosthetic arm to Jen's wheelchair so that she could use it on a daily basis. There have been attempts to give sensation to the prosthetic arm as well so that Jen could feel the sense of touch.

This development is huge for people with spinal cord injuries, amputees, and quadriplegics. We saw something similar earlier this year, and looking at the progress, we should see a lot more action in this area in the coming years!

Hit the source links to read more about this in detail.

Source: BBC, The Lancet via Gizmodo

Monday, December 17, 2012

Project SuperPop: Use Of Kinect For Improving Motor Skills

Is there anything Kinect cannot do?
Scientists at Georgia Tech's Human-Automation Systems Lab are working on a project (Project SuperPop) that would help therapists better kids' motor skills and gather a ton of data that would allow them analyze progression/ regression during rehabilitation.
The set up is very simple - all it has is a Kinect and a display. What the children see on the display is a game that requires them to pop balloons. Typically, kids would get excited and start popping those balloons right away, but what they wouldn't know is that the good ol' Kinect is tracking their arm movements and sending all the data to a computer!
This data can be used by therapists in evaluating the progress kids are making and for giving them the necessary direction required for bettering their motor skills. This setup has been designed for kids (especially the ones with Cerebral Palsy) that need to enhance their motor skills.
An extremely simple arrangement that can  be extremely beneficial! What are your thoughts on this? Would something like this be widely accepted by therapists?
Watch the video for a demo of Project SuperPop.

Source: Engadget

Friday, December 7, 2012

Tommy Edison: What's It Like To Be Blind

There are two reasons why someone wouldn't know who Tommy Edison is - 1) They've been living under a rock, or 2) They don't use the Internet AT ALL.

Tommy Edison, who has been blind since birth, is a movie critic. He watches movies but cannot see what's going on. That's why his focus is always on the writing and acting. But that's not all he does, and this post is not about his movie reviews.

If you've ever wanted to know how blind people lead their lives, then you should not miss Tommy's Youtube channel. He has videos that show him doing everything that a sighted person does, but because  he is blind, seeing him perform regular tasks with extra struggles which sometimes result in catastrophes, puts everything in perspective.

How does he use a DVD player? ATM Machine? How does he cook? How does he use paper money? How does he cross the road? What does he see in his dreams?

These are things that we do on a daily basis, but never really pay too much attention to the effort involved in performing them. For a blind person however, there are extra things that they need to take care of, especially in the public.

Recently he explained what colors mean to him. Although he has never seen colors in his entire life, they still have meaning for him. He associates colors with certain things, and it's amazing to see how what colors to us are what they are not to him.

Check out his Youtube channel to understand how blind people lead their lives, and to understand the difference between how blind and sighted people function.

Tommy's Youtube channel: TommyEdisonXP
His website: Blindfilmcritic

Source: Gizmodo

PS: There's one question that I have been asked by quite a number of people - how do blind people use smart phones? 

Well, I think nobody can answer that better than Tommy himself. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Eye Tribe: Eye Tracker in Tablets

We have seen quite many eye controllers in the recent past that do a fantastic job controlling devices by just tracking eye movement of the user. However, all of them require the purchase of an additional accessory that come for a steep price. To combat that, a group of former PhD students in Copenhagen plan to make  the eye tracker a standard feature in tablets and smart phones that would not require the purchase of additional equipment.

Eye tracking software
Eye tracking software (source: NPR)
The Eye Tribe is a company that has built a technology that would use the built in front facing camera of a mobile device to track eye movement of the user. Basically, an infrared beam would be projected towards the face, and reflected in the user's pupil. The Eye Tribe's sophisticated algorithms are able to determine where the user is looking, and use their eye movement to perform tasks on the mobile device.

The idea is to mass market this technology, bringing it to not just people with disabilities, but every consumer in the market. The only issue right now is that use of this technology (for mass marketing) would require modifying the camera on mobile devices, and The Eye Tribe is in talks with major manufacturers to see how this can be achieved. The first device with this technology built in expected to hit sometime in 2013.

This video demonstrates a regular Windows 8 tablet being controlled just with the eyes!

Source: NPR