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IISc team designs robotic arm to help disabled operate devices

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A research team at the premier Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in this tech city has designed a robotic arm (robo) to help the disabled with speech and motor impairment operate devices such as joystick, mouse or trackball, an official said on Friday.

“The robo helps people with speech and motor impairment condition caused by disorders like cerebral palsy to operate devices like joystick, mouse, trackball or use speech recognition systems,” said the official in a statement here.

The robotic arm has been designed by the team at the centre for product design and manufacturing in the sprawling institute in the city’s northwest suburb.

Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in this tech city has designed a robotic arm (robo)
Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in this tech city has designed a robotic arm (robo)

“Eye gaze-controlled computer interfaces help the mentally challenged perform various tasks on par with their non-disabled peers,” said project leader and assistant professor Pradipta Biswas on the occasion.

Unlike other eye gaze-tracking devices that use head-mounted systems, the robo is non-invasive interface through a webcam and a computer.

The team worked with students with neuro disorder at the Chennai-based Vidya Sagar for the disabled, formerly the Spastics Society of India.

“Many cerebral palsy students are unable to focus on a single point in their visual field due to uncontrolled gaze movement. They are also uncomfortable to see equally all sides of the visual field,” said Biswas.

Using computer vision and machine learning algorithms to analyse live feeds of facial video from users, the team estimated where the user was looking at.

The team coupled this with an Augmented Reality application to allow the students to use a robotic arm for tasks like picking up and dropping objects and placing them where they desire.

“One of the applications of the robo is rehabilitation of the disabled students through tasks such as fabric printing. They require help in doing such tasks, as they can do only a part of it by themselves,” said Biswas.

The robo also allows the disabled to perform mechanical tasks to make handicrafts on their own.

“The validation and evaluation of the interface and the robo with the students is a major contribution of the study,” added Biswas.

The students are able to use the robotic manipulator as their non-disabled counterparts and the results were the same during trials.

The robo can also be used by others with similar impairment to move toys like cars.

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