On a recent Thursday, students from Cal State Fullerton’s School of Engineering and residents from Morningside teamed up to test new technology to help seniors and disabled individuals with daily living. The residents tested devices ranging from a mind-controlled robotic arm to a facial recognition memory aid that helps people with Alzheimer’s Disease identify and remember loved ones.
Wearing a helmet fitted with electrodes to measure electrical impulses from her brain, Morningside resident Jean Hedrick volunteered to test the robotic arm. The device is being developed to assist with tasks such as picking up a bottle of water from the table and opening the refrigerator door – routine activities for most but challenging for many with disabilities.
Under the direction of Dr. Kiran George, the engineering students are currently testing four Assistive Technology devices being developed through Cal State Fullerton’s Bio-Electric Signal Based Systems Laboratory. The lab is working on AT devices that use bio-electric signals including mental thoughts, facial expressions and eye movements.
According to George, a founding principle of the CSUF lab is to design and develop affordable Assistive Technology devices that require minimal training to operate.
“Right now, about one in 10 seniors can afford most of the mind-controlled products already on the market,” he said. “Our goal is to develop products that are reasonably priced and user-friendly for older people and those with disabilities.”
A mind-controlled, self-driving wheelchair and mind-controlled device for using an iPhone to turn lights on and off in the home were also on display. After each demonstration, the residents were encouraged to ask questions about the students’ devices and provide feedback.
Richard Nordsiek, executive director for Morningside, said the residents enjoyed the demonstrations and the opportunity to contribute to next gen technology.
“The Assistive Technology event is part of a series of ongoing lectures and events designed to bring the residents and students at Cal State Fullerton together,” Nordsiek said. “From the residents’ side, they enjoy interacting with the students and keeping up with the latest technology. On the other hand, the students and professors benefit from real-world feedback and the insights and wisdom of the residents. Everybody wins.”