This Painting Robot Could Someday Help Paralyzed People Interact With the World Using Just Their Eyes
Researchers develop new robotic technology that acts like an extra arm, and can be controlled with nothing more than blinks and glances.
image via youtube screen capture
British researchers have unveiled a new robotics system which allows users to control a flexible, highly-functional mechanical arm using nothing but the movement of their eyes. The system represents not only a significant advance in the burgeoning field of human-machine interactive research, but also offers a glimpse at what might someday be an important technology for those with physical conditions which restrict their movement.
Lead by Dr Aldo Faisal, engineers from Imperial College London developed the experimental software system, which tracks ocular movement, translating it into smooth, natural(ish) robotic movement. In a video showcasing his research, Dr. Faisal explains that the technology was originally designed as a way to “augment, extend the human body with additional limbs that are useful in daily life.” ICL student Sabine Dziemian then demonstrates how the system responds to her shifting glances, and purposeful blinking, in order to create an oil painting using multiple colors and brush-strokes.
However domestic the conceptual genesis of this technology might be, its application has the potential to extend far beyond being simply an “extra pair of hands.” For quadriplegics or those who might otherwise not have the use of their arms, the ability to effortlessly guide a robotic avatar by simply moving their eyes could open entire worlds of self-sufficiency. While the technology is not there yet, advances such as these should be heartening for anyone looking to the world of robotics as a means not only to improve everyday productivity, but to genuinely help those among us for whom mobility and dexterity are a challenge. To that end, Dr. Faisal’s eye-directed mechanical arm joins other types of bio-adaptive mechanics, such as thought-controlled wheelchairs and feeling prosthetic limbs, designed to work with existing human physiology in order to seamlessly merge body, and bot.