Hackaday Prize Entry: EyeDrivOMatic

There are a lot of projects in the Hackaday Prize aimed at improving the lives of those of us who are disabled or otherwise handicapped. A good 3D printed prosthetic is a natural idea for the competition, as are projects for the blind and deaf. [Patrick Joyce], [Steve Evans] and [David Hopkinson] are helping a much more debilitating disease: Motor Neuron Disease, or ALS. [Steve] and [Patrick] both have ALS, and they’re working on a project that will use the movement of their eyes to move their wheelchair.

The project began as an idea [Patrick] had a few years ago – why not use commercial eye tracking technology to drive a wheelchair. Eye tracking technology is a reasonably well-solved problem but for some inexplicable reason there are no clear ways to connect this system to a wheelchair.

Over the last few years, [Patrick] taught himself Arduino and Processing to prototype a device that would connect to a computer running an eye tracking tool and to translate this into servo movements. A small 3D printed contraption is connected to the joystick of [Patrick]’s wheelchair, and with just a little bit more code, he can drive his wheelchair around just by looking at a screen. It’s a great use of 3D printing and the humble Arduino, but it’s absolutely impressive this technology hasn’t existed before.

Because [Patrick] can build pretty much whatever hardware he wants, he’s also added a few neat features. The ‘Brain Box’ for this build needs two outputs for servos, but [Patrick] added two more for other purposes. He’ll be mounting a Nerf blaster to the side of his chair, but he also has other ideas of adding a fan, a robot arm, or even IR or RF transmitters; he’ll be able to control his TV with just his eyes.

The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:

6 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: EyeDrivOMatic

  1. Noble concepts for sure. I am all for needs needed tech.
    The last line though makes me laugh. I control my TV and any other TV running by not turning it on or not looking at it. The inventor approved method of operation. Vladimir Zworykin.
    Mice suck. I never understand people who set their mice motions at such tiny settings that every muscle twitch sends the cursor across the screen. They think it’s efficient but when I watch them navigate an environment they are all over the place.
    The ideal is what enables one to drive a straight line or direction to the next position.
    Next, click.

    1. There is a balance where it is comfortable to not have to move so much but still enough that it doesn’t cause discomfort (when if it’s too much you have to keep tension on the muscles to be accurate, which is obviously bad). It’s very individual (also depends on the hardware), some like to move, some don’t…
      I personally enjoy NOT having to lift my wrist (or the mouse) to move from one corner to the other.

  2. i wonder why they are going through the trouble of 3d printing a joystick actuating mechanism when they could just patch in a couple of digital potentiometers into the wheelchair circuitry, or better yet drive the hbridge directly with digital signals from their microcontroller. the former solution would also allow you to throw in a dpdt swtich on both analog lines so you can control with the joystick or the eye tracking gizmo.

    1. leaving the controls intact would allow an assistant to still control the chair via the original controls if needed. also, as a strap on to existing controls thing, it could be easily transferred to another chair in the event of a failure or malfunction of the chair

      1. Hi both,

        I realise this is long after this conversation was initiated, but just to add . . . along with fitting on many types of chairs, the external ‘hack’ is specifically used so no internal circuitry of the wheelchair needs to be adapted.

        This is because many people don’t actually own their chairs – especially in the UK where they are loaned by the health service and will be reclaimed after the user’s death.

        Disability equipment is generally very expensive. An integrated version of the idea in new chairs will be brilliant, but this hacking – yet non-interfering – approach to existing tech means the problem can be solved cheaply and easily for those who need it as soon as possible.

        This is especially important as ALS usually has a very rapid onset and people losing their mobility need a practical solution as soon as possible with what is immediately available.

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