ALS, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, is a condition in which the body’s neurons stop responding. Those with this condition have a very hard time performing simple tasks, as ALS causes their motor functions to weaken over time.
This progressive weakening of body movements causes most people to take the help of wheelchairs to move about. However, even the automatic wheelchairs today have a joystick that requires the use of one's hand. With time, people diagnosed with ALS may lose control of their hands. That is the reason behind the creation of the Eyedrivomatic, which is a 3D printed wheelchair that can be controlled with the use of one’s eyes.
The minds behind the project
The minds behind this wheelchair are those of Patrick Joyce, Steve Evans, and David Hopkinson. Out of the three, Joyce and Evans are more connected to the project as both of them have been diagnosed with ALS.
While Joyce can still use his hands to use his wheelchair independently, the same cannot be said for Evans whose body movements are limited only to his eyes at this point.
That is why this project holds so much importance for the two. They wanted to come up with a solution that allows the people diagnosed with ALS to live as independently as they can, and it seems like the 3D printed Eyedrivomatic is the answer to that problem.
The technology that makes this possible
The fundamental technology that has made this project possible is Eyegaze. This is a technology that lets people interact with gadgets using their eyes. It tracks the user’s eye movements and a computer responds to the signals produced.
Joyce took this technology as a building block in his design and started coming up with ideas that would make this technology control a wheelchair based on a user’s eye movements. In his design, a computer first picks up the signals that the user gives to it, and then it physically controls the wheelchair’s joystick to move the person around.
3D printing makes it accessible
Before the advent of 3D printing, the makers of this wheelchair were not very optimistic about its real-life production and use. However, with 3D printing technologies at hand, the future of the Eyedrivomatic wheelchair is looking much brighter.
The team behind the design is hoping to have a final model manufactured by the end of this year, and also to see the Eyedrivomatic being used by people with ALS all around the world. That seems like a very ambitious plan, but with the help of 3D printing, it is very possible to achieve it.
There are not a lot of people in the world today that would want to help others just for the sake of helping, without worrying about their own gain or profit. Joyce is one of the few who does. He wants to put the software as an open source project on the internet so that everyone can use it to make the lives of people diagnosed with ALS easier. The design is very inexpensive as well, coming in at only $100. This may just make this 3D printed Eyedrivomatic an international sensation.