Release Date 07 March 2011
Two students from the University of Reading will be presenting their research designed to help people with disabilities at the House of Commons next month.
James Coveney and Ian Daly, from the School of Systems Engineering, are finalists in SET for Britain, a national competition whose aim is to encourage, support and promote early-career research scientists, engineers and technologists.
The researchers have designed technology to assist people with visual impairment and those with severe disabilities. James, currently in his final year of a MEng Cybernetics degree, has created a mobile device that uses the sense of touch to guide visually impaired people along a route.
Some navigation systems offer spoken directions which are of value to people with vision impairment but can be distracting, for example, when having a conversation or listening for traffic. James' device communicates wirelessly with a mobile phone to know which direction the person should be walking, and indicates this to the user using a small dial with a textured surface. The user is able to feel the dial with their thumb and read the direction through touch.
Ian, a PhD student, is examining Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), devices that read brain activity. They are designed for use by people with severe disabilities who perhaps would not otherwise be able to use a computer or even to communicate with their family and friends.
When you think, your brain produces particular patterns of electrical activity. This activity is recorded from several positions on the outside of the head by very sensitive equipment (called EEG). Ian's research looks at how the activity, recorded at different positions on the head, interacts. This may be used to identify when different parts of the brain are communicating with one another.
Dr Ben Cosh, Head of the School of Systems Engineering, said: "We are delighted that James and Ian have been recognised for the work they are doing, research that will have real benefits for people with disabilities. The University prides itself that its research is not only underpinned by scientific excellence, but also has application in the real world."
James worked with the University's Dr Faustina Hwang and Professor William Harwin as a Summer Vacation Bursar, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Ian is supervised by Dr Slawomir Nasuto and Professor Kevin Warwick.
James and Ian will exhibit their work at the House of Commons on Monday, 14 March, during National Science and Engineering Week.
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