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Motorized Headrest for People with Neck Muscle Weakness

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Student Designers: Graeham Douglas, Enrico Guld, Mark Hewett, Fraser Macdonald (The University of British Columbia)


Motorized Headrest
Motorized Headrest

No device is currently marketed that provides user-controlled, powered head support for people with severe neck muscle weakness. Further, eye-gaze tracking technology has yet to be widely accepted in applications of controlling real-world devices. We describe our design of a head support system developed for people with late stage ALS. The device can be controlled by joystick, button array, or eye-gaze tracking control. We give particular focus to this last method due to its joint applicability for users with muscle weakness throughout their body. Together, the system provides comfortable support and user-controlled head movement for people unable to do this with their muscles.


The design builds on an earlier prototype created at our university that was also powered. We have configured the circuitry to accept a wide variety of input methods. Joystick, eye-gaze tracking, and a clinician-customized input are possible. The clinician-customized input uses four headphone jacks as inputs for up, down, left and right, allowing the user to employ any combination of input switches from sip/puff to feather-light buttons in a simple four-button array. The user’s gaze is translated into controls by a Java application, and relays signal commands to the headrest’s microcontroller.

For full story, visit Motorized Headrest for People with Neck Muscle Weakness