New gesture-controlled technology for people with disabilities in development

United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) - Top Universities in Middle East

A university instructor and two special needs students have developed new gesture-controlled technology to aid people with disabilities.

The Smart Gesture Control and Recognition Technologies, or Smart G-CRT, can be used to recognize specific human gestures and process them to control various devices to help people with special needs.

Led by senior instructor at United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), Zulfiqar M. Aslam, and developed in collaboration with two students, Abdulla Hashemi and Saud Al Musslot, the technology is designed to help elderly people and people with physical disabilities to carry out routine as well as non-routine tasks smoothly. 

“The focus of our research is to apply and encourage gesture recognition and control technologies,” explains Aslam. “Gesture recognition is the process of understanding and interpreting meaningful movements of the hands, arms, legs, face and head, therefore Smart G-CRT can be used to recognize specific human gestures and process them to control various devices.”

How does the sensor work? Aslam explains: “The small motion sensor will have depth sensing as well as monochrome cameras and can be attached to the prosthetics or any other part of the body which needs to be controlled naturally.” 

Inspired by one of his students, Aslam set about developing the technology in August 2016. 

“This research idea came into my mind after observing one of my students at the UAEU,” explains Aslam. “He was physically disabled and did not have legs – his lower body part was supported by wooden legs and the cost of these legs was almost AED30,000. A year later, I met him again in my class and I found out that he had robotic legs that work with the sensors connected to his nervous system. However, the cost of the legs is almost AED500,000. This inspired me tremendously and I came up with a research idea which can help people with special needs in a better and more cost effective way.”

The instructor is now urging more developers to focus on gesture-related technologies for people with disabilities rather than for luxury goods such as computer games, high-end vehicles and home interior solutions.   

“Presently gesture-related technologies have been widely implemented and applied for the purpose of luxury and prestige, but not much effort and emphasis has been put towards people with special needs,” says Aslam. “These people are mostly using mechanical or robotic legs, joints, hands and arms which can turn out to be very uncomfortable, expensive, heavy and sometimes pointless because they provide a solution to a single problem. Smart G-CRT, however, will be able to provide a complete solution to each and every need and situation. They will be far superior and better than the voice interactive controls because they are not very accurate as the control depends totally on voice dialect and pronunciation.”

Moving forward, Aslam says: “Taking it to the next level will require funding, coordination and support from the technical experts. Once a prototype has been built we will need to work with manufacturing organization to transfer into production.”

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May 19, 2021