| Home | Technology Transfer |

photo of Ultrasonic Head Controlled Wheelchair in use

Ultrasonic head control interface

High level quadriplegics, having lost the use of their arms and legs, require considerable assistance to accomplish even the simplest mobility or manipulation task such as turning on a light, typing a letter, moving around the home, or operating a computer. Since only their head and neck muscles can still move voluntarily, existing interfaces and switches are often inadequate in operating continuous-control devices such as electric wheelchairs.

The two Polaroid transducers in the ultrasonic head control interface (UHCI) generate inaudible high-frequency sound waves that propagate through the air toward the user's head. Energy reflected by the head is detected upon its return to the transducers. The distance from each transducer to the head is calculated from the elapsed time between transmission of the sound and the reception of the echo. Ranging measurements from both transducers allow the two-dimensional determination of the user's head position.

The user operates the UHCI by tilting his or her head forward or backward, left or right - movements analogous to manipulating a joystick. The electronic control signals generated by UHCI from the calculated head position mimic those produced by a joystick. The signals can be used to operate a variety of devices including an electric wheelchair, a communication aid, a video game, or a robotic arm.

The primary advantage of the UHCI is that it requires no mechanical contact between the transducers and the user's head. The user, therefore, does not feel "wired up" as with other interfaces that have components worn on the head or close to the face. By being unobtrusive, the UHCI is both cosmetically pleasing and socially acceptable.

Specific Technology Transfer Opportunities:
The Rehab R&D Center is prepared to work with a company on a computer access interface based upon the technologies developed for the Ultrasonic Head Control Interface. Funding options include those from SBIR proposals or Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). The company should have experience in microcontroller technology and devices for people with disabilities. The Rehab R&D Center will contribute its many years of fabrication, mechanical design, and computer expertise toward a commercial prototype.

Related Work:
The first application of this ultrasonic ranging technique was as an interface for electric wheelchairs.

David L. Jaffe, MS

For additional information contact David L. Jaffe.

Button Bar

People Projects Publications Resources Home