Patrick Joyce, an inventor from the city of Wells in the UK, has won top prize at the 2015 Hackaday Conference for inventing an eye-driven wheelchair.
Joyce’s invention, the Eyedrivomatic, uses the same Eyegaze software which allows users to control computers through eye movement, but instead hooks it up to the controls of a powered wheelchair. Joyce spent the last two years developing and testing the eye-driven wheelchair with his friend and test pilot Steve Evans. Evans uses a wheelchair and can only move his eyes. Joyce also uses a wheelchair, but still has the use of his hands.
Top prize for the Hackaday competition is either a trip into space, or $196,883. Joyce wisely opted for the cash. Joyce was diagnosed with motor neuron disease back in 2008 and has been terminally ill ever since. He says the money came at just the right time. “Our house is too small and we couldn't afford to move. 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."
Joyce doesn’t believe the Eyedrivomatic will ever be available commercially. “There are liability issues that would probably prevent it from happening,” he said. Fortunately, Joyce developed the Eyedrivomatic to be easy to build at home, so wheelchair users around the world can take advantage of it.
In addition to the Eyedrivomatic, Joyce also helped Evans design an eye-controlled Nerf gun to shoot foam darts at his kids.