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AUS students develop award-winning app to help paralyzed patients communicate
Students from the American University of Sharjah (AUS) College of Engineering have developed a mobile solution that can help completely paralyzed patients communicate using a mobile app and a brain/computer interface. This project recently won first place at the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2014 UAE, and the team will now participate in the Pan Arab Semifinals to be held in Qatar later this month.
Basic communication needs for paralyzed people with lost motor skills is a major concern. The AUS student team-Nada Ali Obaid, Aya Belal Ali, Rana Omer Mahmoud and Mohammed Al Nabtiti-developed a smart phone app called iConnect that can determine the patients' thoughts and feelings by reading brain signals.
After interviews with doctors and the director of Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, the student researchers developed a set of commands that would allow patients to convey hunger, thirst, pain and the need for basic motion. Prerecorded EEG neural signals were taken as a base to analyze motor signals and develop accurate classifiers. In the next stage, a real-time brain signal interface was achieved using EEG sensors and developed models were tested. To improve the usability, the team extended the scope of the project to link the monitoring and classification system to a mobile app so that a doctor or a guardian can monitor a patient's feelings of hunger or pain via their smartphones. It can also send signals to machines such as wheel chairs to help the patient move.
"This humanitarian project has shown that AUS engineering students are able to use technology to serve people in need and contribute to create a better society," said Dr. Aydin Yesildirek, Associate Professor in Electrical Engineering and the advisor for the project.
"Our app will enable the voice of silenced patients to be heard by their guardians and improve the quality of their life. It feels great to win the Imagine Cup competition, especially after a year of hard work, on such an important project," said Ali. "Since we are graduating soon, this competition will lead us to our future career and will help us in choosing which field to work on. We will do our best in representing AUS in semifinals in Qatar and proceed to finals."
The AUS team beat 16 other projects from seven universities in the UAE. They will now participate in the Pan Arab semifinals in Qatar May 31-June 4, 2014. The winning team will proceed to the global finals in the US, which will take place in July.