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Toyota develops thought-controlled wheelchair

By Andrew Heining / June 29, 2009

A researcher at RIKEN BSI-TOYOTA Collaboration Center demonstrates an electric wheelchair controlled by a user's brain waves in Tokyo on June 29.

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A new system, developed by a collaboration of scientists working with Toyota, allows a person to control a wheelchair using nothing but his brain. Wearing a cap that monitors brain activity, a user can advance and turn the chair.

According to Toyota, the system monitors brain waves every 125 milliseconds. The result is an experience where the user doesn't experience any lag in response from the system. Similar systems that use voice controls took much longer to respond to commands.

After training three hours a day for a week, the system is able to tailor its responses to a user's tendencies. Imagine a hand or foot movement while wearing the cap, and the system triggers the corresponding response from the chair. Toyota claims up to 95 percent accuracy. As a failsafe, the user can puff out a cheek, triggering a sensor and stopping the chair.

How long before the technology finds its way into consumers' hands is unknown – R&D is still underway, Toyota says, but one thing's for certain – this looks a whole lot more useful than the last brain wave-controlled device we told you about.

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