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Student's invention helps improve lives of people living with paralysis

17 May 2015

A mechanical engineering student from Loughborough University has designed a digital letter board that allows victims of paralysis to communicate.

Robert demonstrates his m(eye)DAQ (see video below)

Robert Green, 20, came up with the idea of the blink-to-speech system for sufferers of severe paralysis and loss of speech, while on an industrial placement at National Instruments.

The m(eye)DAQ detects eye blinks or finger movements which are fed into a LabVIEW application. This then converts the movement into sentences before reading them aloud.

The low cost system uses an optical reflectance sensor, a pair of 3D cinema glasses and two resistors. The finger movement detection circuit comprises of a simple switch, which in the case of the prototype is an up-cycled doorbell to provide a large, sturdy surface to press on. The sensor is mounted on the frame of the glasses close to the user’s eyes and emits an infra-red signal at the white of the user’s eye.

The software then analyses the signal to detect whether or not a change has taken place. It is at this point that the user is able to scroll and select letters from a digital letter board to form sentences which are then read aloud by the computer, aided by a predictive text function.

Robert, who is currently an Applications Engineer intern at National Instruments as part of a Diploma of Industrial Studies placement, says he has a passion for developing projects that can positively influence and change the way people interact with the world.

“Through the use of National Instruments tools, I have been able to create a prototype at a total cost of £164. I hope to significantly improve the lives of people suffering from degenerative conditions such as locked-in syndrome by giving a voice to those who are unable to speak and who have very limited body movement," he says. "I also plan to incorporate digital communications such as text messages, email or social media.

“My studies in Mechanical Engineering at Loughborough provided me with an extensive knowledge of engineering principles, combined with time and project management skills, which allowed me to develop this project from initial concept into a functional prototype in just one week.”

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