Right now you are reading from a computer screen. How did you control your computer to browse the internet – click on a link, scroll the page? Perhaps you used a mouse, a keyboard, a stylus or even your finger. Without hands how could you accomplish the same tasks? Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are often designed to help patients with severe difficulties in mobility or communication. They use novel ways to turn actions or even thoughts into signals – anything from imagining a specific pattern of movement to voice control – to control a machine. The HMI pictured uses surface electromyography to sense muscle activity produced from specific vowel sounds. Used to perhaps move a wheelchair or click a mouse, this system is less invasive than other HMIs and is easy to learn. It could also enable users to multitask in ways many of us take for granted everyday.
Written by Mary-Clare Hallsworth