Combustible engines. Wind power. Solar power. Now, apparently, we have face power.
A Brazilian startup called HOO.BOX Robotics is developing a wheelchair that’s completely powered by facial-recognition technology. In other words, your pretty smile actually can move you forward in life.
More seriously, the HOO.BOX team envisions this tech-powered wheelchair will be extremely useful for people suffer from conditions that limit the use of their hands and arms, such as cerebral palsy or results of a stroke. The prototype, called Wheelie, was initially developed by researchers at Brazil’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, State University of Campinas (FEEC / Unicamp).
Wheelie utilizes a laptop and Intel’s RealSense facial-recognition camera to capture and decipher nearly 80 points from person’s face. The software can be programed to recognize facial movements such as a full smile, half smile, wrinkled nose, kissy face, tongue out or puffed-out cheeks and then assign those actions to driving the wheelchair forward, backward, turning left or right, or stopping it.
The trick to making this practical was finding facial cues that were comfortable for, say, stroke patients to perform, while also not so common as to limit the user’s ability to have a conversation while driving.
Here’s a look at Wheelie being maneuvered around obstacles in an office space:
This isn’t the first group to develop a hands-free wheelchair. Ogo Technology, for instance, created their own version which took inspiration from the Segway. HOO.BOX says they aim to bring a consumer-friendly version of Wheelie to market in the next two years.