The assistive technology uses magnetic skin to support the freedom of movement of quadriplegia patients.
A system that uses flexible, breathable magnetic skin allows people with severe quadriplegia to move and choose their environment. The high-tech system developed by KAUST researchers is based on the user’s obvious tasks to perform from moving from the street to using the elevator.
There is a wide range of assistive techniques available for people with quadriplegia, but most systems are not suitable for patients with severe quadriplegia because they often rely on head or neck movements. For these patients, options are limited to camera, language control, voice assistant, and nerve sensors. But these either offer a limited range of gestures or are not compatible with external applications. Some also require invasive attachments or constant attention while using the system.
Most current technologies do not give people much freedom. We wanted to develop a solution that works both indoors and outdoors so they can move independently. “
Abdullah Almansouri, Ph.D. Student, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
The new integrated system includes magnetic skins, smart glasses, a smart wheelchair and smart devices that rely on Bluetooth wireless and infrared connectivity.
Three magnetic skins are placed between the eyebrows and on both sides of the nose to follow facial movements such as moving the eyebrows up and down and the left and right of the nose. These movements are detected by the magnetic field sensors of the smart glasses and are converted into electrical signals which are transmitted to the wheelchair’s main unit.
This unit processes these signals into commands for wheelchair or smart devices, such as turning on lights or clicking a mouse on a computer. The system currently supports 13 separate facial gestures.
“We reached for something easy and easy, but also one that can’t be easily triggered by accident,” Almansouri says. “The system itself handles the complexity, so the user only uses glasses and magnetic skin to control their environment.”
With the help of his team, Almansouri tested the system with three able-bodied users with a high success rate. Participants took less than 15 minutes to learn how to use the system without assistance. In the worst case, the success rate was 93 percent.
“The synergistic combination of advanced sensor technology and machine learning is sure to improve quality of life,” says Khaled Salama, Professor of Electrical and Information Technology at KAUST’s Advanced Membranes and Porous Materials Center. “This combination can be a game changer in so many applications.”
KAUST – King Abdullah University of Science and Technology
Almansouri, AS, et al. (2020) Assistive Magnetic Skin System: Enabling Technology for Quadriplegics. Advanced technical materials. doi.org/10.1002/adem.202000944.