Israeli researchers have sniffed out what could become a way to give paraplegics and those suffering from "locked-in" syndrome a means to communicate with the outside world and even drive a wheelchair using their noses. Using a device that converts nasal pressure into electrical signals, the team has successfully enabled locked-in patients to write messages independent of stimulus and allowed paraplegics to effectively navigate an electric wheelchair.
We've seen robotic exoskeletons before -- there's Lockheed's HULC that's designed to augment soldier performance, and then there's Raytheon's XOS that's more like an actual Iron Man suit -- but this one is different. REX, the Robotic Exoskeleton, is designed to help those usually bound to wheelchairs stand up and walk, and it should be commercially available later this year.
Never at a loss for creative ways to make aging look like more fun than it is, the Japanese are developing an approach to senior mobility that's far more like a hovercraft than the mis-named Hoveround. Researchers there have engineered a chair that floats on a cushion of air, gently cruising above the floor like a puck on an air hockey table.
For people confined to wheelchairs, the proliferation of ramps has greatly enhanced their mobility. Unfortunately, opening doors remains an omnipresent, and frustrating, challenge. Oddly enough, opening doors also presents a serious impediment for anthropomorphic robots. Now, robotics engineer Erin Rapacki has solved both problems with a single stroke.
For the blind and the physically disabled, moving about a busy urban environment alone presents a constant challenge. For the unlucky few who are both blind and disabled, or for those too impaired to look around while operating a wheelchair, that challenge becomes nearly insurmountable. But now a new "smart" wheelchair may allow those without sight or mobility to traverse a bustling city street.
Mobility-impaired patients and layabouts alike can rejoice at the debut of Panasonic's robotic bed that transforms into a wheelchair. Human nurses and hospitals may also breathe a tiny sigh of relief.
The bed-shaped bot morphs upon command to sidestep the usual trouble of moving a bedridden person from bed to wheelchair, or vice versa. Yet unlike the Japanese bear bot nurse that carries patients, a self-controlled bed bot allows humans to regain some independence and dignity.
For those in a wheelchair with limited mobility, Toyota's new brainwave technology is a marvel. The rider of the wheelchair wears a cap that sends signals via a brain-scan electroencephalograph (BSE) to a computer that analyzes the input to steer the chair in real time, as seen here in a video.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.