Wheelchairs have been built for people who cannot move their hands, but many of these required the ability to turn the head, which not everyone can do. This design only requires control of the facial muscles, and it makes me flex my smile.
A research team from Miyazaki University has developed a prototype for a type of control system. To turn right, you wink your right eye (hard enough to flex your cheek). To turn left you blink your left eye. To go, you clench your teeth, and to stop you clench your teeth again. It seems to work pretty well. They've added proximity sensors to the chair, too, which will automatically stop you if you get within a certain range of an object.
Clearly, this is an early prototype—electrodes on the face ain't gonna fly in the real world. Eventually they plan on confining this system to a pair of wireless goggles, that could be worn easily and comfortably. I'd hate to see what happens when your goggle run out of batteries in the middle of rush-hour in Tokyo, but this kind of system could really help a lot of people, and we hope to see them continue to refine it and get it ready for real world applications. Now, if these goggles could be adapted for my office chair, to wheel me into the kitchen for a cup of coffee, I might just invest my life savings. [DigInfo TV via TechCrunch]