Bihar professor ‘enables’ quadriplegic IIM-A graduate
AHMEDABAD: Imagine spending 13 long years unable to move a finger, dependent on your family for all your daily needs. That was the life of 1993 batch alumnus of Indian Institute of Management – Ahmedabad (IIMA) Suresh Karat. But, not anymore. Suresh is now enjoying a new sense of liberation.
Today, he can surf the internet and also interact with his teenage son. Thanks to an innovation from Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DAIICT), Karat is now able to use a computer to type and express his feelings just by moving his head and blinking his eyes. IIM-A alumni rallied behind Suresh and funded the innovation.
With this financial aid, DAIICT professor Prabhat Ranjan prepared a ‘brain-computer-interface’ which has enabled Karat to surf the internet and type his thoughts through head movements and blinking of eyes. A resident of Coimbatore, Suresh was 32 when he suffered a brain stem stroke in 1999 that left him a quadriplegic without speech.
“The device uses an imported neurohead-set originally used for playing videogames. The neuro-head-set recognizes facial expressions, head movements and brain waves. We integrated this device to the computer in such a way that that the user can use it to control the computer,” said Ranjan, who is also a scientist working with Isro in the project for finding water on moon.
The device enables Karat to move the cursor on the computer screen with the movement of his head. After bringing the cursor over the desired key on a keyboard displayed on the screen, he can blink his eye to click the key. Ranjan has also developed another device called ‘Brain-CePal’ through which the user of neuro-head-set can control fans, lights, television and so on.
After his paralysis, Karat started a blog called ‘I do’ in 2009. Karat, who then used to write with the help of his wife posted – ‘If someone asked me whether I have a life after suffering a brain stem stroke, I will reply ‘I do’.” With the new device, many people like Karat will now be able to say ‘I do’.
The project of developing the brain-computer-interface began in late 2011 when Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) graduate and author of ‘Stay Hungry Stay Foolish’, Rashmi Bansal, met DAIICT professor Prabhat Ranjan. Bansal suggested that he help Suresh Karat, the IIM-A graduate from 1993 batch, who had been paralyzed for around 13 years.
While Ranjan had done research and development as a voluntary service, the costs for the hardware components of the device were borne by a group of IIM-A alumnus, who formed a trust to help Karat.
“The imported neuro-headset costs a little more than Rs 20,000. The other device, which controls electric lights, fans, televisions, air-conditions and such other items also cost a couple of thousand rupees more. Both devices together are quite affordable for many paralysis people in the country so that they can become more independent and even employable,” said Ranjan. He added, “There are many software engineers who have become paralyzed after accidents. They can now operate computers and start working in various ways.”
In fact, Ranjan is working towards developing various applications for the neuro-headset towards helping the differently-abled people and small children. The scientist is now working on using the device to identify the different learning abilities among small children.
“Every child has an aptitude and ability. Unable to identify them tends to create an impression that they are weak in studies. We are now developing a system to capture their brain waves and identify their abilities. This will help in guiding them towards the right career and even enhancing their performance in general education,” said Ranjan.
Since the past few years, students of DAIICT and Ranjan had been working on developing a remote control without buttons for cerebral palsy patients who cannot move their fingers.