July 5, 2009

Toyota developing thought-controlled wheelchairs

The BSI-Toyota Collaboration Center (BTCC) is working on a wheelchair that can be navigated in real-time with brain waves. Users simply think of the direction they want to go in and the wheelchair does the rest.

Toyota is taking full advantage of recent technological developments in the area of brain machine interfaces (BMI). Such systems allow elderly or handicapped people to interact with the world through signals from their brains -- and all without having to give voice commands.

The wheelchair is currently under development by RIKEN, an independent administrative institution that's a collaborative project with the Toyota Motor Corporation.

The new system allows brain-wave analysis in as little as 125 ms, as compared to several seconds required by conventional methods. Brain-wave analysis results are displayed on a panel so quickly that drivers do not sense any delay.

The system also has the capacity to adjust itself to the characteristics of each individual user, thereby improving the efficiency with which it senses the driver's commands. That way, the driver is able to get the system to learn his/her commands (forward/right/left) quickly and efficiently; the system boasts an accuracy rate of 95% -- one of the highest in the world.

Here's a video of the thought-controlled wheelchair in action:

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