Thought-controlled wheelchair

The company Ambient has demonstrated a motorized wheelchair that is controlled by subvocal speech. The individual thinks of a particular word and a sensor collar around the user's neck detects the electrical signals sent from his or her brain to the larynx muscles. The computer then matches those signal patterns to pre-programmed "words" used to control whatever apparatus the system is attached to, in this case a wheelchair. The approach is similar to the subvocal speech system recently demonstrated by NASA for future spacesuit communication devices. Engineers Michael Callahan and Thomas Coleman developed the Ambient technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. From New Scientist:
 Corp Docs Tidcphotos 3-9 Keynote Images 3-9 Keynote 29 Callahan and Coleman say (the output from the device) can also be sent to a speech synthesiser, allowing a paralysed person to "speak" out loud. Recent refinements to the algorithms used may make it possible to interpret whole sentences thought out by the user. This could potentially restore near-normal speech to people who have not spoken for years, the researchers say.
Link to New Scientist article, Link to YouTube video

Previously on BB:
• NASA's silent speech system Link
• Subvocalization mic functional prototype Link



  1. I know this probably isn’t possible, but I have a severely handicapped brother who only sits in a wheelchair when we take him out to the mall. Other than that he crawls, uses his walker or stands with the help of a counter top or wall.

    You can tell he’s a smart kid stuck in body he can’t control enough to communicate. I would love it if one day we could put him in one of these and use this thoughts to control where he wanted to go. Of course, this would make him lazy b/c he often waits for us to take care of something for him b/c he knows we will. (yes, he’s smart enough to play that game) But, in some ways it would help me see his thoughts, and I’ve wanted to do that for 15 years.

    Knowing where he wants to go would be phenomenal.

  2. I wonder if this kind of technology could have musical applications? Detecting what note a person is subvocalizing and reproduce it?

Comments are closed.