Somerset

'Gobsmacked' inventor wins US prize for eye-driven wheelchair

Patrick Joyce Image copyright MND Association
Image caption Patrick Joyce says he was "gobsmacked" to learn his device the Eyedrivomatic had won the top prize

A man with motor neurone disease has scooped a US prize for inventing a device which allows people to control wheelchairs using only their eyes.

The Eyedrivomatic developed by Patrick Joyce, from Wells, Somerset, allows quadriplegic wheelchair users to steer, recline and change speed.

His wife woke him at 0400 GMT to tell him he had won the top Hackaday prize of $196,000 (£128,000).

Mr Joyce, 46, was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2008.

Image copyright Patrick Joyce
Image caption The device links existing eye-operated software with the controls of powered wheelchairs

Mr Joyce has spent two years developing the device, alongside his "test pilot" Steve Evans from Thames Ditton in Surrey.

It links existing Eyegaze software, used to control computers using eye movements, to a joystick on the controls of powered wheelchairs - it is attached to the control pad using "non invasive" velcro, so can be used on loaned wheelchairs.

'Gobsmacked'

Mr Joyce, who is terminally ill, can still control his wheelchair himself, but Mr Evans can only move his eyes.

As well as using the Eyedrivomatic to move around, Mr Evans has also successfully attached it to a Nerf gun to fire foam darts at his children.

Mr Joyce said: "I was gobsmacked that we won... The money comes at an opportune moment as 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."

He added: "I doubt Eyedrivomatic will be commercially developed. There are liability issues that would probably prevent it happening. But ... I designed it to be easy to build at home."

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