Technology July 12, 2020
IISc Bangalore designs robotic arm controlled by eye movement for people with speech & motor disabilities
A team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore have designed a robotic arm that can be controlled by eye movements. What sets this device apart from other eye gaze-tracking devices is its non-invasive user interface.
Certain disorders like cerebral palsy can lead to severe and motor impairment (SSMI). This makes it hard to perform some tasks like operating joysticks, a computer mouse/trackball or use speech recognition systems.
That is set to change thanks to a new device developed by a team at the Centre for Product Design and Manufacturing (CPDM), Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore.
Non-invasive eye tracking device
The device is a robotic arm that is controlled by eye movement using a computer interface. It’s non-invasive as it is through a webcam and a computer unlike other eye gaze tracking technologies that use head-mounted systems.
Researchers say the device can help people with severe speech and motor disabilities perform tasks just like those without disabilities. Speaking to the media, Assistant Professor and Project Lead, CPDM, Pradipta Biswas, said, ”Many of these students with cerebral palsy are not able to precisely focus at a single point in their visual field, due to uncontrolled gaze movement. They are also not comfortable to look at all portions of the visual field equally”.
The IISc team worked with young adults with such disabilities studying at NGO Vidya Sagar in Chennai. Computer vision and machine learning algorithms were used to analyse live feeds of facial video from students. This helped to gauge where they are looking. This was coupled this with an Augmented Reality application to allow students to use a robotic arm for tasks like picking up and dropping objects and placing them where they wanted within the reach of the robotic arm.
Enables greater independence
The eye gaze-controlled robotic arm helps youth with SSMI perform tasks like fabric printing independently. They no longer needed help as the arm and their eye gaze helped them carry out mechanical tasks and work on handicrafts by themselves.
This eye gaze-controlled interface is being used regularly at Vidya Sagar. “This validation and evaluation are a major contribution of the study,” says Biswas. The technology can also be used to move toys like cars. Further modifications to this device could also enable people with severe speech and motor disabilities to use it for e-learning.
The team says the system could be useful for automotive and aeronautical applications, as well as for developing collaborative robots used in smart manufacturing.
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