Intel’s new AI facial recognition kit could revolutionize mobility for wheelchair users.
At CES, the firm demonstrated its incredible technology in the Hoobox Robotics’ Wheelie 7 kit, which can be retrofitted to existing motorized chairs to give the rider control using only their facial expressions.
This means wheelchair-users with impaired motor control in their arms and hands could drive themselves around without assistance, using uniquely programmed gestures such as an outstretched tongue to direct the chair’s motion.
Many wheelchair users, including quadriplegics and people with neurological diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), are unable to press directional buttons or push the joystick required to drive a motorized chair.
But, the new technology from Intel and Hoobox aims to change that.
Intel demonstrated its system at the Las Vegas Convention Center during CES, showing how up to 10 different facial expressions can be used to direct its chair in different directions, and start or stop its motion.
The system works with an app, through which you can adjust the chair speed and assign directions to different faces, an Intel exhibitor told Dailymail.com.
So far, about 60 people in the United States are testing the kit – and, in trials set to begin later this year, the number will jump to roughly 300.
The Wheelie 7 kit relies on several Intel technologies, including a 3D Intel RealSense Depth Camera SR300, Intel Core processors, and the Intel Distribution of OpenVINO Toolkit.
And, in a move that means it could be accessible to broad user base, Intel tells Dailymail.com that the kit can essentially be installed in any wheelchair equipped with a directional control pad.
For many people living with limited mobility, the facial recognition technology could be a game changer.
As the kit is still in the prototype phase, Intel has not yet revealed how much it will cost.
‘The Wheelie 7 is the first product to use facial expressions to control a wheelchair,’ said Dr Paulo Pinheiro, co-founder and CEO of HOOBOX Robotics in December.
‘This requires incredible precision and accuracy, and it would not be possible without Intel technology.
‘We are helping people regain their autonomy.’