Because of the technological advancements the world has today, it is not surprising that science experts and engineers continue to make innovations of the wheelchair. People have already witnessed the creation of the wheelchair that helps its users stand by themselves, and the development of the robotic wheelchair that can climb stairs and go over bumps and obstacles. Today, the engineers of Microsoft bring in another wonderful innovation – the eye-controlled wheelchair.
The Microsoft Company is developing and designing a new type of wheelchair – one that is controlled by the user’s eyes. This technological innovation is made possible because of a challenge posed by a former football athlete named Steve Gleason.
Stephen Michael Gleason, or popularly known as Steve Gleason, used to play as a safety (a player in the defense position) in the New Orleans Saints of the NFL or National Football League. Today, this former star athlete is suffering from the disease known as ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.
The disease, which is referred to as Charcot disease, MND or Motor Neuron Disease, or in the U.S., Lou Gehrig’s Disease, is a degenerative disease affecting the central nervous system or the brain. It has a variety of causes and it is characterized by muscle stiffness or spasticity, dysarthria or difficulty in speaking, dysphagia or difficulty in swallowing, and dyspnea or difficulty in breathing. Muscle atrophy is behind the rapidly progressive weakness seen in this disease.
As years passed, Gleason’s ability to control the joystick of his wheelchair with the use of his fingers is lost as the muscle-wasting disease progresses. He presented such challenge to Microsoft hoping that the company will be able to help him gain back a little of his independence he lost 6 years ago.
The Microsoft engineers gladly accepted the challenge and thought of ways to make it possible. In just two days, the team of experts presented a solution. The principal software design expert and engineer, Gershon Parent shared the idea of the design.
Parent said that in order for Gleason to control the wheelchair through the movement of his eyeballs, Gleason must follow the red dot seen on the surface tablet. Parent referred it as the Eye Gaze.
The company is now a step closer to making Gleason’s challenge a reality. Through the Eye Gaze, the wheelchair can move to whatever the user’s eyes move – be it to the left, right or forward.
But Parent said that there are still a lot of things to do, develop and discover. But the creation of the eye-controlled wheelchair is not impossible. Today, Parent and his team are working on the details and other specifications of the wheelchair.
The development of the eye-controlled wheelchair will not just help Gleason but anyone who needs it. According to one of the company’s leader in accessibility, Jenny Lay-Flurrie, this invention will be the key that will open doors to people who are physically disabled.
As Microsoft brings in this new design or innovation of the wheelchair, a glimmer of hope is also given to those who have lost their movements and other useful abilities. This wheelchair is something that not only Gleason will look forward but also the rest of the world.