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Game changer opening access to the brain

“One notable project is a brain-controlled wheelchair, led by Steve Castelloti, CTO of Puzzlebox, which has implications for the mobility of people with spinal cord injuries. Castelloti’s work is focused on Puzzlebox Brainstorms, an open source software suite aimed at introducing students to basic neuroscience and brain-computer interfaces (BCI).

In 2010, Puzzlebox demonstrated the first version of the system. The user was fitted with the EPOC headset, which transmitted to a module within the Puzzlebox Brainstorms BCI software housed in a laptop computer. An Arduino – the popular open-source single-board microcontroller – was used for setting direction control, while a custom interface box simulated the wheelchair joystick controls.

While the original system allowed the user to move the wheelchair by thinking about the direction they wanted to move, the concentration required to keep the wheelchair in motion, and the distinct thoughts needed to execute simple commands like left and right, created a lot of mental strain just to be able to move around.

Castellotti and his team realised that quadriplegics and paraplegics placed more importance on increasing personal independence and restoring control of bodily functions, and so redesigned the solution into a hybrid wheelchair and “telepresence” robot.”

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