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Russian scientists develop brain-controlled wheelchair

All News 18:03 June 09, 2016

SEOUL, June 9 (Rossiya Segodnya-Yonhap) -- A team of scientists at Russia's National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (NRNU MEPhI) developed a wheelchair that can be controlled not only by voice or gestures but also by the power of thought. It will be used in the treatment of people with severe musculoskeletal disorders or leg injuries.

Researchers developed the robotic complex consisting of a chair with mounted equipment (that looks no different from an ordinary wheelchair), a helmet with special sensors, a computer for a remote monitoring station and software.

This is how it works. The person in the wheelchair puts on the helmet with special sensors that simultaneously record and analyze voice commands, hand movements, facial expressions, brain cortex signals and even emotions. These signals prompt the wheelchair to move. If the equipment fails or breaks down, the operator of the remote monitoring station takes control of the wheelchair.

The invention will be used in the treatment of people with severe musculoskeletal disorders. Even completely paralyzed people will be able to use it.

"If the person chooses to turn right, the wheelchair will obediently turn right. So, in effect, he is controlling the chair with his mind. Here the main task is to clearly picture movements the system is able to perform, to focus on them and not to let your thought wander," said Yevgeny Chepin, project director and deputy head of computer systems and technology chair at NRNU MEPhI.

"Critically, the smart wheelchair does not follow every command of its owner but only those that cannot harm him in any way. Imagine that the person is under significant emotional duress. The chair may stop following his orders and decide it is not worth carrying out commands given by him in such an emotional state," said Gleb Urvanov, the project's deputy director and a NRNU MEPhI post-graduate student.

The researchers worked on the project for about two years and have already applied for patents in Russia and under the international Patent Cooperation Treaty. Now they are upgrading the technology: in the near future they plan to equip the chair with a voice feedback system that will inform the person in the chair about what is going on. The project's future directly depends on how much interest the government and business community show in funding it.

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