assistive technologies october / november 2011

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Innovation for independance


  • By Dominic Musgrave

    RESEARCHERS at the University of Bradfordhave unveiled new technology which allowsdisabled people to control their electricwheelchairs by simply moving their eyes.The breakthrough could help severely disabledpeople who up until now have not been ableto move independently.This research, led by Dr Prashant Pillai,developed a unique eye controlled robot lastyear. But, after months of completelyrewriting the software involved, they havenow discovered how to apply this to anelectric wheelchair and have made hugeimprovements to the technology.Prashant said: We really had to go back tothe beginning to make the technology workfor electric wheelchairs. We are really excited by how well ourprototype is working and have managed toreduce the reaction time from when the eyemovement takes place down from a fewseconds to just a few milliseconds which willfeel instantaneous for the user. We have alsomade the headset completely wireless.The technology works by the user wearing atracking device on their face - like a pair ofglasses which has a small camera on it. The camera sends a signal to a central unit via

    infra-red LEDs, precisely tracking eyemovement right down to the exact position ofthe iris, which then relays the message to theelectronics of the wheelchair. Users simplylook in the direction they wish to travel andthe wheelchair responds. Developed by the Future Ubiquitous Networksresearch team from the University's School ofEngineering, Design and Technology, which isled by Professor Fun Hu and Prashant, thesystem has been named IRIS IntelligentRecognition for Interactive Systems. Prashant added: There are furtheropportunities to develop the technology toother electrical items in the home, andpotentially removing the need for a headsetcompletely, allowing wall mounted cameras inthe user's home to pick up eye movementand wirelessly relay instructions to thetechnology used. The longer term aspiration is to worktowards a fully assisted home, where a usercould just look at their television, lighting ormusic equipment to switch it on.The team now intend to refine the technologyfurther, then consult with disability groups tocarry out user testing. They are hoping toattract external investment to allow them tofurther develop it and take it to market.

    Wheelchair eyecontrol devicerevealed

    PC David Rathband officially opened the bi-annual NaidexScotland in Glasgow.He also signed copies of his recently launched book Tango 190 inwhich he describes in his own words the night he was shot bygunman Raoul Moat, his recovery and how he set up the BlueLamp foundation, the aim of which is to support members of theemergency services who have been injured in the line of duty.


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  • 02 G & M full page 5/10/11 10:19 Page 1




    ContactsEditorialAndrew Harrod Group

    Dominic Musgrave Healthcare EditorEmail: Tel: 01226 734407

    Christina Eccles ReporterEmail: Tel: 01226 734463

    Sales Christine Daly-Sadler Product ManagerEmail: Tel: 01226 734412 Fax: 01226 734478

    Tony Barry Sales and Marketing DirectorEmail: hour hotline: 01226 734695

    Design/Production Judith Halkerston Group Deputy EditorEmail: Stewart Holt Studio ManagerEmail:

    Whilst every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of all contents, the publishers do not accept liability for any error, printed

    or otherwise, that may occur.

    Unfair mobility aid salepractices revealed in report By Dominic Musgrave

    THE OFT has ssued a warning abouttraders that use unfair sales practicesto sell mobility aids such as scooters,stairlifts and adjustable beds to theelderly and disabled in their home.The report has revealed that last yearConsumer Direct, the OFT-managedadvice service, received 4,500 callsfrom people complaining or askingfor advice about mobility aids.It has found that elderly and disabledcustomers who are subject to highpressure sales techniques fromdoorstep traders can pay high pricesfor mobility aids. The report also highlighted the stressand inconvenience caused whencustomers are misled into making aninappropriate and expensivepurchase.As part of a national consumerawareness campaign, the OFT isencouraging people to shop aroundand understand their rights whenbuying mobility aids from doorsteptraders. Colin Brown, director in the OFTGoods and Consumer Group, said:With so many different mobilityproducts available, it can be difficultto know whether you're buying theright item and what price you should

    be paying. It's important that people arentpressurised into making a hastydecision that could leave them out ofpocket or with an item thats notwhat they need.This campaign aims to help peoplehave the confidence to say no ifthey're unsure about whats beingoffered or want to take the time todiscuss their needs with a familymember, friend or trusted healthcareprofessional.The report adds that many traderstreat their customers fairly but someuse high pressure sales tactics thatencourage people to make snapdecisions without comparing pricesor checking to see if the product isthe right one for their needs.Director general of the BritishHealthcare Trades Association, RayHodgkinson MBE, added: Thisshows the importance to consumersof the Code of Practice that we haveagreed with the Office of FairTrading. People buying from firms that aremembers of the BHTA know that thesupplier is governed by that code ofpractice. It is in the interest of firmsto make sure that their potentialcustomers are aware of the code and

    that they are buying from a BHTAmember. This gives consumers a good degreeof protection and enhances thereputation of the business.The BHTA plans to amend its Codeof Practice to require members todisplay actual prices and priceranges, to address the concernexpressed by the OFT that there is alack of price advertising on theinternet and in marketing materialswhich inhibits customers' ability toshop around in order to identifyproducts that represent good valuefor money.

    Ray Hodgkinson


    03 10/10/11 12:55 Page 1



    By Christina Eccles

    A NORTH West university has secured300,000 from the European Unionto take technology widely used in thegames and movie industries to thehealth care professions.

    The new Masters in Clinical GaitAnalysis at University of Salford willtrain physiotherapists and clinicalscientists to use gait analysisequipment to examine people whohave difficulty in walking andinterpret the results to provide moreeffective treatment.

    Though originally developed almost30 years ago for healthcare, the gaitanalysis technology struggled tobecome widely adopted. Instead itwas seized upon as a quick way ofcreating animations notably incomputer games and movies andhas become much more advancedand widely re-adopted for medicine.

    Despite this, there is no specialisedtraining in the use of the equipment a lack which Salfords new course isdesigned to solve.

    The course, which will be developed

    throughout the next year ready for2013 admissions, will sit alongside alarge portfolio of gait analysis at theUniversity headed by professorRichard Baker.

    He said: This grant acknowledgesSalfords position as a Europeanleader in clinical movement analysisand our commitment to becoming acentre for excellence. Providingtraining in this area will help bring afar better standard of treatment topeople with walking difficulties.

    The Universitys facilities are alreadyused by local surgeons andprofessional sports teams to treatwalking problems and improve anathletes speed and, as similarfacilities become more common inmedical settings, the course willprovide skilled operators.

    It will be developed alongside twoother leading centres in gait analysis:VU University, Amsterdam, and theCatholic University, Leuven, Belgium.The grant has been awarded by theEUs Lifelong Learning Programme.

    The lab at Salford University.

    New course to trainprofessionals usinggame technology

    RESEARCHERS at two universitieshave begun a landmarkexperiment which if successfulcould see a cutting-edge roboticarm controlled by mind poweralone.

    Johns Hopkins Universitys AppliedPhysics Laboratory in Marylandand the University of Pittsburghwill begin testing on spinal cordinjury patients whose brains havebeen implanted with a tiny (2mmby 2mm) electrode array.

    Program manager at the APL,Michael McLoughlin, said: Whena neuron fires, an electrode willpick it up the signal will travel to atransmitter and it will betransmitted to a computer in thearm which then interprets thatsignal and converts it into amotion.

    It's a really exciting point in theprogram. Weve been working ongetting to this point for the pastfive years.

    The Modular Prosthetic Limbweighs around nine pounds - thesame as a natural arm - andcomes close to the dexterity of a

    natural limb, offering 22 degreesof motion, including individualfinger movement.

    The APL was awarded the contractto develop and test the arm onhuman subjects in 2010 as part ofthe $100m RevolutionizingProsthetics program run by theU.S. Defense Advanced ResearchProjects Agency (DARPA).

    Touch sensors in the fingers andthe palm will also pick upvibrations, temperature andsurface textures, according toMichael, although tests on thesewill not start until next year.

    Michael said: The results of thisprogram will help upper-l