“There’s no right pace,” said Mohamed Kante, E’12, who worked with elderly and disabled patients at Kindred Transitional Care and and Rehabilitation — Crawford in Fall River, Mass. No matter how fast or slow he and his colleagues offered patients bites of food, they could never match the patients’ individual needs.
The eye Controlled Robotic Arm Feeding Technology, or iCRAFT, has the potential “to give thousands of paralyzed individuals the independence to eat with minimal help from a caregiver,” Meleis said.
Similar technologies exist, including the recently reported BrainGate implant, which allows patients to control a robotic arm merely by thinking about it. But these require some kind of invasive — or even surgical — interface to connect the user’s desires with the robot’s behaviors, Lopes said.
In this case, there is no physical connection between the user and the control device — no joystick under their chin, for example. Instead, the patient needs only to look at a box on a computer screen.
The team developed an eye-tracking software that couples the direction of a patient’s pupils with his or her food choices. Three colored segments of the screen correspond to two bowls of food and a drinking bottle. A fourth, larger segment allows the patient to take a break from eating.
“The single best moment of this capstone experience was the first time we were actually able to control the robot arm with nothing but our eyes,” Barron noted. “Once we were able to accomplish this feat, I was confident that everything else would fall into place.”
Watch the following video to see this robot in action:
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Photo credit: northeastern.edu