Inclusive and Eye-Gaze Controlled Human-Robot Interaction for Persons with Severe Speech and Motor Impairment
Most individuals perform various activities of daily living without having to con sciously think and plan about them. People talk, cook their food, move around the house, drive to their workplace and schools, play sports, and so on. However, a sig nificant proportion of the world population is not so fortunate enough. About 15% of the world’s population lives with some form of disability caused by Neurodevel opmental disorders, accidents, or injury to the brain or spinal cord. India had around 27 million people living with disabilities . There are special provisions and laws enforced by national governments and worldwide organizations for supporting ed ucation, healthcare, and employment of persons with disabilities . However, persons with disabilities are less likely to ever attend school, tend to leave education mid-way, and are less likely to possess basic literacy skills. A similar trend is observed in their employment and social inclusion in general. The persons with disabilities majorly belong to a spectrum of functional impair ments given their medical and health conditions. The most isolated section of the disability spectrum are persons with severe speech and motor impairment. Such in dividuals face challenges in having natural interactions with their environments. Per sons with SSMI are unable to use their limbs for grabbing and movement, or speech and other bodily gestures for communication. They are confined to a wheelchair and heavily depend on a caregiver or a family member to carry out even the activities of daily living (ADL). The caregivers and family members must rely on manual analysis of the eye-gaze of persons with SSMI in order to communicate and understand their needs. Advances in robotics and technology, in general, have opened new doors for inno vative solutions for supporting persons with disabilities. Researchers have come up with numerous solutions in the fields of assistive, rehabilitation, and social robotics. There are smart motorized wheelchairs, with intelligent robotic arms mounted on them, and social companion robots to talk and play with as pets. This dissertation work proposes an eye-gaze controlled, safe, and affordable human robot interaction system for persons with severe speech and motor impairment. This research takes a user-centered design approach to design the assistive robotics sys tem based on initial interactions and pilot studies with the end users. The proposed human-robot interaction systems are evaluated with end users in various user trials over the last four years.