Wheelchair moves at the speed of thought

July 24, 2003 at 9:10 PM
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MARTIGNY, Switzerland, July 24 (UPI) -- Severely disabled people may soon be able to steer their wheelchairs using only their thoughts.

New Scientist magazine says unlike previous thought-communication devices, the new system does not use surgical implants. Instead a skullcap embedded with electrodes monitors a wearer's brain activity.

Early trials indicate the new system might require only two days of training.

Paul Smith, executive director of the London-based Spinal Injuries Association, told New Scientist: "It's a very positive step. The psychological benefits it would offer are huge."

Smith said current options to give freedom of movement to people who are quadriplegic are limited, For example, he says it's possible to steer a wheelchair using a chin-operated joystick or by blowing into a thin tube. But both options can be exhausting - and they are not suitable for those with very limited movement.

The new system is under development at the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence in Martigny, Switzerland.

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