Drive with your eyes! Eye tracking wheelchairs for quadraplegics

Patrick Joyce, who suffers from motor neuron disease (MND), has received a $196,000 prize from Hackaday after inventing a unique 3D printed mobility device. The Eyedrivomatic technology, developed in collaboration with Steve Evans and David Hopkinson, facilitates unprecedented eye-controlled wheelchair movement.

Open source system to drive powerchairs by eye movement alone – allowing independent mobility when use of a person’s hands isn’t an option. Patrick Joyce 04/24/2015

By Benedict, Nov 27, 2015

3D printing is used for a wide range of medical applications, many of which can help disabled people to live their lives with fewer limitations. Prosthetics and implants, for example, are some of the more common medical uses of 3D printing technology, and the impact of these 3D printed devices on the lives of patients is significant. But despite the best efforts of some designers, 3D printing is yet to have a truly significant impact on wheelchair technology.

Earlier this year, we reported on an ambitious 3D printing project by Patrick Joyce, 46, who created a 3D printed electronic device enabling wheelchair users who have lost movement in their arms to control their chairs with eye movements.

Back in April, Joyce had just finished his second prototype of the 3D printed mobility device, which connects electric wheelchairs to an Eyegaze device. Eyegaze is a computing tool for disabled people which allows users to operate a computer using only eye movements. Currently, the technology is only designed to allow users to perform basic computational tasks, which do not include controlling a wheelchair.

Patrick Joyce 04/24/2015

Joyce’s Eyedrivomatic device, which he designed in collaboration with filmmaker David Hopkinson and friend and fellow MND sufferer Steve Evans, uses an Arduino to connect the Eyegaze technology to an electric wheelchair. Users can then use the established eye-recognition technology to send a signal to the Eyedrivomatic 3D printed “hand”, which grasps the wheelchair’s joystick and can thus control the chair’s movement.

“Steve and I both have MND,” Joyce explained. “We both have electric wheelchairs, but while I still have some movement in my fingers and am just able to operate mine, Steve only has his eyes left and, until Eyedriveomatic, had to rely on his carer to operate his. We both also have Eyegaze equipment, which is becoming increasingly available. At the moment, it is not possible to operate one with the other. Eyegaze technology is only intended for operating a computer, not the wheelchair.”

Joyce wanted to build a product which would function with Eyegaze and a standard electric wheelchair, without making radical alterations to either. “As I don’t actually own the wheelchair or Eyegaze, my idea was to make something which would interface with the user’s chair-mounted computer and physically move the joystick,” the inventor explained. “Crucially, this would mean not making any modifications to the loaned hardware and could work with any wheelchair and Eyegaze combination.”

Eyedrivomatic – Hackaday Prize finals video. People who have totally lost the use of their muscles cannot operate their own wheelchairs.The Eyedrivomatic system takes advantage of existing eye tracking technology to allow users to drive their chairs again – using only their eyes. It’s a low cost, open source way to give mobility back to people who thought they had lost it forever. Eyedrivomatic. Youtube Oct 24, 2015

Joyce was diagnosed with MND back in 2007, and was told he would not live more than three years. However, the former plumber turned inventor defied the odds and his huge cash prize will be used to relocate his family to a bigger home. “I was gobsmacked that we won,” Joyce explained. ”I wasn’t supposed to live as long as I have, and we hadn’t planned on me still being alive when our kids were teenagers. The money comes at an opportune moment as our house is too small and we couldn’t afford to move. As it is, my progression turned out to be really slow, so moving house should stop the boys from murdering each other, and provide more space for my inventions.”

Although Joyce does not expect the Eyedrivomatic technology to be taken to production, he hopes that wheelchair users may be able to adopt the principles behind the technology to create their own similar devices. “I doubt Eyedrivomatic will be commercially available,” he admitted. “There are liability issues that would probably prevent it happening – but I designed it to be easy to build at home.”

Eyedrivomatic HACKADAY PRIZE 2015. The Eyedrivomatic system takes advantage of existing eye tracking technology to allow users to drive their chairs again – using only their eyes. It’s a low cost, open source way to give mobility back to people who thought they had lost it forever. Vimeo June 24, 2015

Last year, Hackaday launched their annual Hackaday Prize, to be awarded to the most creative problem-solver in their hacker-designer-engineer community. The panel of judges were so impressed with the Eyedrivomatic technology developed by Joyce, Evans and Hopkinson that they decided to award the team the first prize of $196,883.

“This has never been done before and the high level to which the team executed this project netted them the Grand Prize of the 2015 Hackaday Prize,” said a spokesperson for the awards. Joyce and co. declined the alternative prize, a trip into space, since they could not feasibly share the single seat between the three of them. OpenBionics’ affordable prosthetic hands, also 3D printed, came in second place.

Despite providing a seriously useful tool for MND sufferers and other disabled people who have lost movement in their limbs, Joyce didn’t forget to have a bit of fun with his invention. As well as being able to control a wheelchair, the inventor tinkered with the device so it could facilitate eye-controlled operation of a Nerf gun, allowing him to fire foam darts at his unsuspecting children.

Makers can build their own 3D printed Eyedrivomatic device using the files and instructions on Hackaday. Sincere congratulations must go to the team for their winning of the Hackaday Prize and for their invaluable contribution to the disabled community. 3D printing technology could hardly be used in a more worthwhile manner.


Eyedrivomatic Build Instructions, © Patrick Joyce 2015, licenced under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Also see
Eye Controlled Wheelchair!
Project Details
Eye Controlled Wheelchair! Autodesk Instructables
Is Eyedrivomatic for Me? Eyedrivomatic
The gaze-controlled wheelchair that won the Hackaday prize
Eyegaze, Communicate with the world using the power of your eyes LC Technologies Inc.
3D Printing Helps in Creation of Eye-Movement Controlled Wheelchair For The Paralyzed
IntelliGaze User Stories Alea Technologies GMBH

Sad news from the Eyedrivomatic team
Mobility Menu

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