One of the best minds of our generation, Stephen Hawking’s early onset progressing form of ALS, a motor neuron disease has unfortunately left him communicating to the world by using a single cheek muscle attached to a speech generating device on his wheelchair. Recently, Intel built a connected wheelchair fully endorsed by the main man Hawking himself, designed to take biometric information from the user and display it on touch screens.
The life of an individual suffering from paralysis is not an easy one at all. Movements are restricted and the patients are bound to their wheelchair as a means of support with no muscle movement at all. Stephen Hawking has his miracle chair, but India has Diwakar Vaish. The head of the Robotics & Research of A-SET training and Research institutes has made the country’s first mind controlled wheelchair.
The invention is designed to help patients suffering from Locked In Syndrome (LIS), wherein the patient loses all control of muscles and cannot even speak/express emotions. They are able to see and hear their environment, but can only respond with eye movement. How does it work? “To understand its mechanism, our mind is made of millions of neurons and they fire up electrical impulses to the adjacent neurons depending on the thought that has to be produced. The electrical signals that are produced by electrochemical reaction then pass through the brain to the scalp in very minute amount. These impulses are sensed by a device called an EEG sensor. This electrical signal is firstly amplified and then filtered. These signals are then sent to a system that calculates these electrical signals into meaningful data”, Diwakar explains.
The wheelchair needs nothing but your thoughts and will be made completely in India (a big boost to the PM’s Make In India campaign) – Diwakar Vaish wants to cement India’s place in the domain of robotics. His research and work in the field of brain control technologies for the past 4 years, has seen the invention of “Manav”, India’s first homegrown robot. The robot can sense what you’re thinking and do actions accordingly. They are also the first company in the entire world who have copied human emotions into a robot by the means of brain cloning. This was successfully demonstrated over at TEDxIIM Shillong.
Our company and our products in the past or the future will never be driven by sales figures. We believe that it does not matter how many devices we sell. Even if we sell just one and the device brings positive change in the life of the user, it gives us immense satisfaction. Our aim is to give society the technologies that make people’s lives easier.”
The cost of the wheelchair is expected to be around Rs 2 lakhs. Diwakar and his team are working towards a more affordable, commercial version for patients across the country.