Maker creates a brain-controlled, multi-purpose wheelchair

As previously covered on Bits & Pieces, UK-based Maker Philip Case (referred to many as “Cap”) has set his sights on a project that will make the lives of many living with a disability easier. Cap, who is confined to a wheelchair due to an unfortunate accident, has been diligently working to further develop his incredibly innovative, all-purpose e-wheelchair.

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The e-wheelchair enables chair movement to be controlled solely by a user’s brainwaves. While some wheelchairs already exist with this technology, they are very expensive. In true Maker fashion, Cap is seeking to create an Atmel AVR based chair that is both affordable and easy to use for all who would require its services.

In order to bring this idea to fruition, Cap’s DIY system employed an Arduino Uno R3 (ATmega328), an Arduino Yún (ATmega32U4) as well as a series of breakout boards. The Arduino boards interpret the brainwaves into directional movements for the chair.

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For the control system, Cap has implemented the Neurosky Mindwave Mobile and a Mindflex EEG. So far, Cap has been able to control forward and reverse on his chair with these tools. Though, in a recent update, steering has been changed to blink detection rather than laser, using ultrasound for a safety stop in forward and reverse — one affixed to each footrest and another behind the chair.

Cap considers the design’s built-in safety and communication system an integral feature. The Maker decided to include an automatic stop functionality in order to prevent the chair from accidentally running into and hitting innocent bystanders. To accomplish this, the set of embedded sensors will stop the wheelchair at a preconfigured distance. In other words, if the chair comes in close proximity to any object or person, the chair will put the potentiometer to 0.

“Due to the over 200-pounds in weight travelling at any speed… The chair in motion can be very heavy and a dangerous machine, this system will work similar to the cars with cruise control that slow down when a car is nearing its sensors,” says Cap.

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Furthermore, the communication system is easily stacked onto the Arduino board. In the event any problem arises, this will allow the device to alert a third party through its Internet connection. It can also be used to transmit location with built-in GPS.

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The Maker is also implementing Cooking Hacks’ e-Health system to monitor vital body parameters, like ECG or blood glucose levels. With his aspirations to provide independence to users, he is exploring the idea of connecting a mobile device to the e-wheelchair using both Bluetooth and USB.

In addition, the e-wheelchair is utilizing Vuzix M100 smart glasses to enhance the user experience.

“The Vuzix M100 will enable the wearer to essentially have all the functionality of a smart phone and more, in the form of glasses. Controlled by voice and gesture, the Vuzix M100 are already being championed as game-changing when it comes to productivity in industry… The M100 is a standalone device as well as being compatible with Android and IOS and can be worn over your eye (optical head-mounted display) or incorporated into safety goggles and I understand, prescription glasses also,” Cap writes.

Lastly, the Maker has debuted an add-on kit, which increases the portability while reducing the cost of the project. This includes vital sign monitoring, GPS, virtual coaching applications, a kill switch along with some perimeter and proximity sensors. To stay up to date on Cap’s build, you can follow along on the Cooking Hacks blog here.

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