It has taken 20 years of blood, sweat and tears, but Phil Case is on the verge of a massive breakthrough with his e-Wheelchair – a 3D printed, mind-controlled technology project.
Phil Case is the brains behind the e-Wheelchair project. As a wheelchair user he found that most commercially available electric wheelchairs cost in the region of £20,000 and so he began a personal mission to produce a chair with superior control and a range of components that can be 3D printed to keep costs down. One innovation he has built into the e-Wheelchair is Neurosky’s MindWave Mobile and the Mindflex EEG headband to enable thought operated control. This commercial technology uses blink detection and captures the user’s brain waves to convert them into a signal that moves the joystick.
Onboard vitals are also gathered and used. Ten different life signs are measured including heart beat, muscle movements, blood oxygenation and pulse rate, blood pressure, galvanic skin response (sweating – an excellent emergency beacon for diabetics in distress), blood glucose, body temperature, breathing rate and body position. But that is not all. The e-Wheelchair also has a mobile 3G and GPS system with a two-way camera that can be used to talk to carers or paramedics. Phil has tied in a pair of Vuzix M100 smartglasses to provide that vital audio and video link between the chair user and medics for emergency situations.
If this sounds like overkill, it makes more sense when you hear Phil’s story. He has been using a wheelchair for 20 years after breaking his neck falling from a ladder. Treatment for his neck injury led to further complications including amputated fingers, a heart attack, strokes, osteoporosis, MRSA infection, diabetes and a stomach ulcer. Little wonder that he recognises the need for an upgraded experience as well as help for a range of health problems.
One of the central strands of the e-Wheelchair is to allow its user to be independent despite poor health, to help with quicker recovery from injuries and to enable people to retain the feeling that they are valuable to society. e-Wheelchair will most importantly be able to be used by those who cannot use a standard powered chair.
The Vuzix M100 glasses offer real advantages says Phil, giving the ability to securely video conference with others. “This could offer other important services such as a live doctor-patient appointment without the need to attend the surgery. I was asked why I don’t want to use Bluetooth connections for the ‘ConnectedCare’ aspect? In short, the answer to that question is reliability. No interference and avoiding the chance that someone could access or hack into the system, as was discovered last year with remote operated insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring devices.”
For Phil the mind controller is another coup. Amputees, stroke victims and even sports people wishing to attune their mind to their body would benefit from using the unit. Phil estimates around 70 million people worldwide require a wheelchair temporarily or permanently so the case for its adoption is already out there.
Here is a quick tech list of the gadgets, manufacturers and people that help support Phil’s e-Wheelchair:
- Vuzix Inc – supply the M100 smartglasses, financial backing, moral support and industry contacts.
- NeuroSky – brain control interfaces and SDK files to develop them.
- Cooking_Hacks (Libelium) – a complete eHealth V2 Platform, including cloud and 3G/GPS systems along with SDK, software, hardware and technical advice.
- Wikitude AR – SDK for the Vuzix M100 Glasses, Wikitude SDK licensing and Wikitude Studio accounts for AR/VR Control and interactive content on the e-Wheelchair Project.
- Atmel – For their advice on the Arduino Uno and the Atmega Chip.
- Ultimaker GB/EducationCREATE – Donation of an Ultimaker Original and Ultimaker 2 3D Printers plus assorted PLA for custom housings.
- Fuel3D – donation of a Scanify handheld 3D scanner to produce 3D prints using Phil’s own objects and images.
- Ultima Computers – donation of a mobile portable printer for printing out ECG and other eHealth information for doctor or paramedic use. Plus discount on a Getac F110 Rugged tablet for use on the home version of the ‘e-Wheelchair Project’.
- Mobility Hire UK – discounted price on the Pride Fusion wheelchair used in the project.
- Getac UK – donation of a V100 Rugged laptop and docking system to replace a stolen Panasonic ToughBook that all programming and testing is done with.
- Mustard PR for their publicity services and Sarah Bennett from techandtoast.com who has written about the project from the start and set up a donations website.