UCP Life Labs Throws Support Behind Google Glass Eye-Control App for Wheelchairs

  • April 09, 2013

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When I heard about the Google Glass Explorer contest, I thought about project ideas that could help people by using the unique features of this new augmented-reality technology. I remembered a project that some fellow students did during a robotics class that I took in graduate school. It used eye-tracking technology to remotely control the motors on a vehicle. After confirming that Google planned to embed eye-tracking technology in their new product, I realized this idea could work for applications such as wheelchairs.

The image is of a park, with text overlays meant to simulate the Google Glass experience such as "increase" and "decrease" and an indicator which displays speed and acceleration.The image is of a park, with text overlays meant to simulate the Google Glass experience such as “increase” and “decrease” and an indicator which displays speed and acceleration.

My plan is to provide feedback about the wearer’s surroundings, including obstacles and suggested paths, and enable him or her to control the wheelchair with eye movements. The original student project used patterns of a user’s eyes being opened or closed to change between types of motion.

For my project, I want to use subtle yet deliberate movements of the eye to let the user interact seamlessly with the surrounding environment. I think this technology could be life-changing for persons with disabilities. I hope that being able to work on this project with the support of the Google Glass Explorer program will help make it a reality.

The image shows a bridge bordered by trees, with a Google Glass interface on the right side which displays speed and obstacles.The image shows a bridge bordered by trees, with a Google Glass interface on the right side which displays speed and obstacles.

 

I received my Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and then focused heavily in Robotics while receiving my Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tufts University. When I began to pursue a career as a Software Engineer at Wayfair, I still maintained a strong passion for Robotics on the side. I’m extremely excited about benefits wearable computing will have in health care and can’t wait to starting working on a project that will provide people with access to mobility they may have not had before.

After I wrote up my idea and posted it on Google Plus with the #ifihadglass hashtag, some fellow Wayfairians tweeted about it. Walter Frick of BostInno saw a tweet, did an interview with me, and then wrote an article about it. The story was then picked up by Popular Science and aggregator sites, such as HackerNews.  Now that the project has won Google’s Glass Explorers contest, I have started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise enough funds to get started on a prototype right away.  If you would like to help bring this project into reality, please visit the IndieGoGo campaign and consider giving any small donation.

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