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Eye-controlled wheelchair showcased in London

Published: Thu 26 Jun 2014

The University of Bradford demonstrated new technology at Universities Week in London which allows disabled people to control their electric wheelchairs by simply moving their eyes.

The breakthrough, which came through back in 2011, has now been modified by Dr Prashant Pillai and PhD student Suraj Verma and could help severely disabled people who up until now have not been able to move independently.

Dr Pillai (pictured right) and his team demonstrated the research by showcasing a working prototype of an eye controlled wheelchair at an event in London at the National History Museum‌. The event which, is part of Universities Week, welcomed thousands of visitors including families, school children, academics and industry experts. Dr Pillai was at the event with his team from the University of Bradford.

This research has already developed a unique eye controlled robot and a wheelchair controlled through an eye piece. But after months of completely rewriting the software involved, this has now been adapted so that users of the wheelchair do not have to wear anything over their eyes but can simply look at a screen attached to the wheelchair.

Dr Pillai said: "The event at the National History Museum welcomed some of the top university researchers from across the county and it was a privilege to be included in this list. This technology has the potential to change lives and is at the forefront of what we as a leading technology university are all about."

The technology works using an eye tracking device that remotely tracks eye movement and then relays that information to the intelligent control unit of the wheelchair. Users simply look in the direction they wish to travel and the wheelchair responds.

The team now intend to refine the technology further, then consult with disability groups to carry out user testing. They are hoping to attract external investment to allow them to further develop it and take it to market.

There are further opportunities to develop the technology to other electrical items in the home. The longer term aspiration is to work towards a fully assisted home, where a user could just look at their television, lighting or music equipment to switch it on.

Dr Pillai is a Senior Lecturer in Electronics and Telecommunication and a member of the Future Ubiquitous Networks (FUN) Research Group which is led by Prof Fun Hu. The team will also be demonstrating other research carried out by the group like their unique eye controlled game and their ground-breaking aeronautical communications technology funded by the EU and the TSB.

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