Students at R V Engineering College (RVEC) in Bangalore, India have developed a new type of electric wheelchair that could assist quadriplegic patients gain independent mobility. The high tech wheelchair, named Project Wheelie, allows the user to direct the movement of the chair by tracking eye-movement.
Project Wheelie is in its final stages of completion, and the student engineering team masterminding the project consists of Satish Ravishankar, Nikihil Mysore, Govind Ram Pingali, Theja Ram Pingali, and Niyanth Krishna Polisetty. The group was inspired by Stephen Hawking, who communicates through a speech generating device.
The aim of the project was to help those with spinal cord injuries (SCI) and progressive motor neuron diseases (PMND) achieve independence that is normally unavailable to them.
“In many cases of severe paralysis, ocular (eye movement) control is either not affected or affected last. Keeping this in mind, we have developed a cost-effective solution in order to assure victims of paralysis a greater degree of independence and better quality of life,” Satish explained.
While other groups and companies have developed similar technology, Project Wheelie aims to be a much more cost-effective solution.
“Similar equipment developed by others so far, depend on image processing technology to achieve targets, which is quite expensive. Through Project Wheelie, we propose a system wherein a person on the wheelchair needs no support to move along. Here we capture the eye movement through Electro-Oculography (EOG) and it works on the bio-medical technique,” said Mysore.
“With enough sensors in place, the product assists the user in safe and collision-free mobility. Not just that. Wheelie also keeps track of his or her vital health statistics, generates alerts and notifications, which effect arrival of timely medical attention when required,” added Satish.
While the students are still awaiting their final grade on the project they devoted one and a half years to developing, others outside of the college have taken notice of the team’s innovation. Project Wheelie is the finalist for the Young Engineers Award, a national event run by Mahindra Satyam, and is also the national finalist of the Innovator-2011, which is an initiative of the Confederation of Indian Industry.