Tag Archives: Eyedrivomatic

Rewind: 8 Maker projects changing the world

The Hackaday Prize Grand Prize and Best Product winners are both powered by Atmel!

As proof that one small idea can make a big difference in this world, the trio of Patrick Joyce, Steve Evans and David Hopkinson were named this year’s Hackaday Prize Grand Prize winners. The nine-month design contest, which challenged Makers to build something that matters, drew more than 900 entries from folks spanning across the globe with differing backgrounds and skills. After narrowing down the submission pool to 10 finalists, the competition culminated with an award ceremony on November 14th at Hackaday’s Super Conference in San Francisco.


The winning innovation, dubbed Eyedrivomatic, is an eye-controlled wheelchair system that allows those suffering from ALS and those who no longer have use of hands to regain their mobility. Whereas most wheelchair units are rented and therefore unable to be permanently modified, this inexpensive and easily adaptable piece of hardware boasts the ability to improve life for those who require more options for controlling their mode of transportation. According to its creators, since it was a group effort, they have decided to take the $196,883 prize rather than a trip into space.

Other winners included:

Additionally, Reinier van der Lee was the recipient of the Hackaday Prize’s Best Product award and walked away with $100,000. His project, Vinduino, is a low-cost, simple-to-build and rugged tool for optimizing agricultural irrigation, helping to save wine growers at least 25% in water consumption. The sensor-driven platform monitors soil moisture at different depths to determine when to irrigate, and more importantly, how much H2O is necessary.


Congrats to all of the winners — especially the five of the six mentioned above that are powered by Atmel! What’s more, we had the pleasure of going 1:1 with these finalists prior to Hackaday’s SuperCon. You can click on each of the respective projects below.

Eyedrivomatic’s Patrick Joyce


OpenBionics’ Minas Liarokapis


Solar Utility Vehicle’s Chris Low


Gas Sensor for Emergency Workers’ Eric William


Vinduino’s Reinier van der Lee


LUKA EV’s Maurice Ward


FarmBot’s Rory Aronson


uRADMonitor’s Radu Motisan


1:1 interview with Hackaday Prize finalist Eyedrivomatic

Did you know that 80% of the 2015 Hackaday Prize finalists are powered by Atmel? With only days left until we learn which project will walk away with this year’s crown, we recently sat down with each of the potential winners to get to know them better. 

Amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Typically, motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. However, with ALS, the progressive degeneration of the motor neurons leads to their demise. When these motor neurons die, the brain’s ability to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people eventually become unable to speak, eat, move and breathe.

Cognizant of this, the Maker trio of Patrick Joyce, Steve Evans and David Hopkinson have developed an eye-controlled wheelchair system that will enable those who no longer have use of hands to regain their mobility, not only ALS sufferers. This innovation, dubbed Eyedrivomatic, is a yet another prime example that a Hackaday Prize entry can make a lasting impact on the lives of others. We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with team member Patrick Joyce to get this thoughts on the contest, learn about his inspiration for the project and what the future holds for the truly remarkable machine that will give those with quadriplegia a second lease on life.


Atmel: What is Eyedrivomatic?

Patrick Joyce: Eyedrivomatic is an eye-controlled wheelchair system that allows quadriplegics to take control of their mobility, by providing a hardware ‘bridge’ between users’ Eyegaze equipment and their wheelchairs.

Atmel: How did you come to the idea for it? Moreover, what inspired you to enter the contest with your project?

PJ: I have ALS, a terminal disease which takes away use of your muscles, your ability to eat and breathe, and sooner or later, inevitably, takes your life as well. Two years ago, as I was steadily losing the use of my hands, I suddenly realized to my horror that when they did go completely, I would no longer be able to move my own wheelchair. Subsequently, I would have to rely on carers to move me. I figured I’d better do something about that.

When I heard about the Hackaday Prize, I thought ‘wow, a trip into space!’ What I didn’t realize was just how motivating entering would be, and how dramatically the deadlines would speed up the rate of progress on the project — it’s been a heck of a ride.


Atmel: In line with the Hackaday Prize’s theme, how are you hoping your device changes the world? What’s the mission?

PJ: My original goal of helping my future self retain independent mobility soon changed, when I realized the scale of the problem. My mission quickly became helping everyone in this awful position, worldwide. At the moment, Eyedrivomatic is a first-world solution to a first-world problem. It relies on the user having Eyegaze equipment and an electric wheelchair. I can’t do much about quadriplegics without wheelchairs, but I’m actively working on a webcam-based system for those without Eyegaze equipment.

Atmel: What’s different about it? What’s your vision for the next five years? Where do you see the project going or what/who would you hope will pick up the project and use it?

Truth be told, ALS will likely take my life sometime over the next couple of years, so getting the Eyedrivomatic project to the point where others can continue its maintenance and development is paramount. I’m nearly there — just some work left to do on the software. From there, the priority will become getting the system out to the people who need it.


Atmel: As we know, the Maker Movement has opened the door for everyone from hobbyists to tech enthusiasts to hardcare engineers to tinker around. What’s your personal background?

PJ: These processes are hindered by my inexperience in all the disciplines necessary for a project like this. Before getting ALS, I was an artist… a painter. My work never paid the rent, so I earned a living as a tree surgeon, or even more recently, a plumber. None of which was much use when it came to 3D design and programming. However, Arduino is a perfect platform for someone such as myself. Powerful and versatile, yet simple and easy to use. And, Arduino combined with 3D printing — now that’s marriage made in heaven. I certainly couldn’t have designed Eyedrivomatic without them.

Atmel: What are some of the core pieces of hardware embedded?

PJ: Eyedrivomatic employs an Arduino Uno (ATmega328), which has enough processing power to run the entire system with plenty to spare for add-on features. Aside from that, there’s a four-channel relay shield, a servo/sensor shield, an optional solar phone charger, some servos and a few other components that can be found on its Hackaday page here.]


Atmel: What advice would you offer other Makers when getting into hardware and embarking on a new project?

PJ: My advice to those wanting to become Makers, but daunted by their lack of skills: Arduino, Arduino, Arduino! It’s perfect for beginners, and provides you with programming instruction as you go along – at your own pace. Then, get hold of a 3D printer and learn Sketchup or Autodesk 123D.

Atmel: Has this process inspired you to launch a startup and perhaps even take to Kickstarter/Indiegogo?

PJ: I’ve no plans to crowdfund an Eyedrivomatic manufacturing project at the present time, though I’m hoping someone else will.

Atmel: And… if you win, will you be heading to space or taking the cash?!

PJ: I would love to go into space! But Eyedrivomatic was a team effort, and sadly we can’t all squeeze in that one seat. So boringly, we would take the cash.

Don’t miss our other interviews with fellow HaD Prize finalists Chris LowOpenBionics and Eric William!

Controlling a motorized wheelchair with your eyes

This DIY open source system enables those with ALS to drive their wheelchairs through eye movement.

Amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their demise. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, people may lose the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe.


With that in mind, the Maker trio of Patrick Joyce, Steve Evans and David Hopkinson are currently working on a Hackaday Prize entry that will enable those with the disease, who no longer have use of hands, to operate their wheelchairs through eye movement. The project, called Eyedrivomaticconsists of a 3D-printed electronic hand that sits above the chair’s joystick and is given instructions by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) based control unit, which in turn, commands the eye-tracking software.

ALS usually strikes people between the ages of 40 and 70, and approximately 20,000 people in the U.S. have the disease at any given time. The team ultimately hopes to provide an affordable and easily accessible method for those with motorized wheelchairs to take complete control of their mobility needs all through the power of sight.


Though both Joyce and Evans have access to Eyegaze equipment, the eye-tracking technology is only capable of operating a computer, not a wheelchair. As a result, the Makers wanted to create a device that could interface with the wheelchair-mounted computer, and then physically move the wheelchair’s steering joystick.

“I envisaged having two parts: an electronic hand unit and a brain box to control it. Making the [hand] should be fairly easy using servo motors, but I was stuck on what the brain box would actually be… then I discovered Arduino,” Joyce explains.

After ordering a 3D printer and waiting for it to arrive, he sought the help of Tim Helps who already had access to a machine, which they used to make a first prototype based on an initial mockup housed inside a cardboard box. Yet, the team found this version to be a bit too complicated and required a lot of soldering and custom parts in order to piece together. With a functioning proof-of-concept, a 3D printer on hand and a little help from the kind folks at 3D Systems, the Makers went on to build a second iteration of the Eyedrivomatic. This time, though, without the need of soldering and a wide range of components.


“Initially, I thought we’d interface the computer with the brain box via infrared, as most wheelchair mounted computers have infrared environmental control, but after consulting Steve I dropped this in favor of a direct connection via USB and got busy writing software for it in Processing,” Joyce adds.

When all is said and done, this DIY system is an inexpensive, open source way to give mobility back to people who thought they had lost it forever. Following a successful live test of Eyedrivomatic, the team has proceeded to develop a switch version employing Eyegaze for selecting direction and speed, and a switch for accelerating and stopping.


“It was very exciting, with everything working reliably and well. I will have to tweak the software a bit as the diagonal speed was disproportionately fast. With that done, the chair should change direction and speed smoothly in mid flow,” Joyce notes.

Now, the Makers have moved on to their latest model, which includes updated software, control box and electronic hand — all with the goal of making it easier to build. By November, the trio hopes to have a couple of next-generation Eyedrivomatics in use by ALS sufferers along with comprehensive set of instructions available online.

This is truly amazing and is exactly what this year’s Hackaday Prize challenge is all about. You can read more on the project’s official page, as well as check out the machine in action below!