Jun 9, 2015 | By Simon

While we’ve seen how much of an impact 3D printing has had in the medical industry for its ability to create prosthetic devices or even surgical parts, it appears as though we are already moving into a phase where creating 3D printed bionic prosthetics and other medical assistance aids might become the new normal - thanks to a handful of inspired makers who have been deciphering how to include low-cost tech into the already low-cost 3D printed devices.  

Among others, fourteen-year-old Myrijam Stoetzer and fifteen-year-old Paul Foltin have been actively developing a solution for helping those bound to wheelchairs with limited mobility be able to control their wheelchair through the use of eye movement alone - similar to a costly device that physicist Stephen Hawking uses.   

To create the prototype for the device, the team started by soldering a webcam and SMD-LEDs onto a pair of safety glasses.  A filter inside of the webcam was modified to only bypass IR light to make it independent from other light sources within the environment - which would allow for the light to be lit by the attached SMD-LEDs only.

This design of the eye tracker evolved into further iterations through the use of 3D printing their own custom parts, which were combined with an Odroid U3 (a Raspberry Pi2B proved to not be powerful enough for the project) that was capable of processing a video stream of the pupil’s position and compared that against a pre-existing template to determine when to move forward, reverse, left and right.  The team coded the Odroid with Python and it is their first coding project after moving on from the LEGO Mindstorms NXT set.  

To ensure that the wheelchair doesn’t move accidentally - such as if a user turns to make eye contact with somebody - the team has designed the system to operate with a ‘verification switch’.  A ‘verification switch’ is a corresponding command that is done in tandem with the eye movement based on a muscle movement that a user is still capable of making.  For Stephen Hawking, this includes a muscle movement in his cheek; in order for the eye tracking device to work, he also flexes the muscle in his cheek.  Since these available muscles movements are different from user to user, the ability to use 3D printing to create custom sensor parts is a blessing for many who otherwise may not be able to have such a device that is customized specifically for their needs.


Currently, Stoetzer and Foltin are among the finalists in the Forscht 2015 innovation competition and are hoping to pull in a win!  Regardless of how they perform in the competition, one thing is definitely for certain: these two young makers have a very bright future in front of them and just might change the world!


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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szymon wrote at 6/23/2015 12:10:24 PM:

Hi, I would like to recommend you free software: WebCam Eye-Tracking for usabiliti testing : https://sourceforge.net/projects/gazerecorder/

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