On a very special occasion, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Intel has unveiled its latest development the “Wheelie 7 kit”, an AI-based technology that allows disabled people to control a motorized wheelchair only by there facial expressions.
In partnership with Brazil-based Hoobox Robotics, Intel developed the Wheelie 7 kit. The researchers created a special machine learning algorithm for this AI Driven Wheelchair so it can process data in real-time to direct the movement of the wheelchair.
This Wheelie 7 kit, learns automatically about the user’s gestures like smile and other gestures, it required is no special training. It offers 10 facial expressions, from smiling, furrowing their brows, or wrinkling their nose.
The user can also customize which facial expressions they want to use to control the moments and direction of this AI Driven Wheelchair. Through an app, the user with assistance from a caregiver can also assign which facial expressions would be tied to which way the wheelchair moves or stops: left, right, forward, backward.
The facial expressions will be caught/registered through a combination of facial recognition software, sensors, robotics, and by using Intel’s 3D RealSense Depth Camera. The camera will be mounted on the front of the Wheelchair.
It is also said to be capable of capturing and recognizing facial expressions in both sunlight and dim lighting, so using it at night should not pose a problem.
To ensure that this processing happens as quickly as possible, the system is supported by Intel Core processors and the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO Toolkit.
The prototype is currently being tested by more than 60 people in the US. In the test, the testers use Wheelie on average nearly 4 hours per day and “travel” an estimated distance including rotations of 700 meters day.
It was found compatible with 95 percent of the motorized wheelchairs and can the system take minimum 7 minutes to get installed in every condition.
This AI Driven Wheelchair also provided an interesting additional use for AI-driven facial recognition beyond security applications and entertainment.
According to Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, co-founder, and CEO of Hoobox Robotics, “The Wheelie 7 is the first product to use facial expressions to control a wheelchair. This requires incredible precision and accuracy, and it would not be possible without Intel technology. We are helping people regain their autonomy.”
The Wheelie 7 kit eliminates the need for invasive body sensors which are traditionally required for operation of wheelchairs. It will be very useful in the upcoming future for quadriplegics, and for those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and for senior citizens by allowing these individuals to control their motorized wheelchairs with nothing but facial expressions.
Hoobox plans to open up 100 additional spots on a waiting list that now numbers about 300. They’ll receive the kit, which would normally go for about $300 per month under a subscription model, for free in exchange for user feedback. Pinheiro expects the next prototype to come out in March.
Intel said that “this AI Driven Wheelchair is developed to help the hundreds of thousands of people who live with spinal cord injuries, the majority of whom indicate physical mobility as having the largest impact on life quality. The Wheelie 7 intends to provide users with regained autonomy, giving them new independence and control over where they go.”
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