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Moving a wheelchair by raising an eyebrow

Sensors in a footrest of an experimental wheelchair at WPI keep it from rolling off steps and other dropoffs.
Sensors in a footrest of an experimental wheelchair at WPI keep it from rolling off steps and other dropoffs.headset photo: Emotiv

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All it took was the slightest eyebrow raise. That stopped the electric wheelchair that Worcester Polytechnic Institute student Ran Li maneuvered through the halls of the school’s engineering department on a recent morning.

For a left turn, he glanced left. He looked right, and the wheelchair went that way.

Li was able to control the chair without ever touching any kind of control, or even moving his arms at all. The only thing required was an eye movement or an expression. And those simple movements were captured with sensors attached Li’s head that told the wheelchair where he wanted to go.

A senior at WPI studying electrical engineering, Li is part of a small team at WPI working on a project to create a more intelligent wheelchair.

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