The eyes may be our windows to the world – but could they one day be able to move exoskeletons simply by thought?
David Rozado believes that by coupling eye pupil size together with Brain Computer Interface (BCI) technology, our eyes will, one day, be able to control exoskeletons - robotic devices that fit around limbs. BCI systems establish a direct connection between the human brain using electrical impulses and electronic or mechanical devices.
BCI technology could have a huge impact on individuals who cannot make, or have difficulty making, voluntary muscle movements. This includes patients with advanced stages of motor neuron disease and those suffering from specific types of brain stem strokes that lead to locked-in syndrome.
“These patients are in desperate need of innovative ways to communicate with electronic devices,” David explains, “and if their sensory and cognitive functions are not impaired then there is a window of opportunity to use a mental switch to do that.”
But electroencephalograms or EEG-based BCIs are expensive, bulky and invasive. They’re also relatively unreliable.
“An 80 per cent accuracy rate is an issue if we want to use the technology to reliably move our body. We need to move with close to 100 per cent precision,” David says.
David has used his studies on pupil size to improve the accuracy of BCI technology by ten percentage points. “In 10 or 20 years from now, BCI technology will become a reality and it will be used to control exoskeletons and move limbs.”
David’s aim is to make the currently expensive technology available to all. “I want to create a web hub where anyone can access such software accessibility solutions, and use them free of charge.”
Rozado, D., Duenser, A., Howell, B. (2015) Improving the Performance of an EEG-Based Motor Imagery Brain Computer Interface Using Task Evoked Changes in Pupil Diameter. PloS one 10.3., March 27 2015.