Inside the wonderful inventions of Dr. Torch

When we hear about the future of technology, most people picture sci-fi like robots taking over the world, or maybe you have a tamer picture of Rosie from the Jetsons cleaning your home and helping you get your kids off to school?

As a mother to boys, I wouldn’t object to a cleaning bot. However, in the real world of robotics, inventors are tackling much larger problems, ones that don’t include destroying humanity. Instead, inventors are finding creative ways to solve problems that benefit humanity.

One example of technology that is benefiting the world, comes from Dr. William Torch. Torch came up with the idea of Eye-Com in 1998 while caring for a paralyzed hospital patient who was on a ventilator in the intensive care unit. Glen, 34, was in a coma due to encephalitis.

"All of a sudden, he opened his eyes, looked right at me, and I knew he was engaged," Torch recalled. "He could blink to indicate ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to simple questions, but he couldn’t communicate complex thoughts."
 

Image credit: Dr. Torch

Dr. Torch had an idea to focus an infrared beam on the eyelid to read the blinks and then connect this sensor to a buzzer.

He went to Radio Shack with a friend who knows about electronics and he soon was able to make a detector that could "read" the reflected light from closed eyes, that buzzed for as long was they were closed. Using this newly founded, inexpensive technology, you can create morse code with your eyes by using a series of blinks. That’s how Eye-Com was born. 

He found that the eyelid closures detected by Eye-Com light beams matched those detected by EEG machine skin electrodes, so it could work flawlessly with an EEG machine and readout without skin electrodes.

After this discovery, Dr. Torch wanted to see what else this technology could do. He found that it could create Morse code type signals and convert them to letters on the screen. He also learned, they could send signals to any electronic device and turn it off and on using eye blinks. In addition, it can also measure eye movements that signal drowsiness and wake someone through voice synthesizer or vibrations. It can also send an alarm to a remote source in case of loss of consciousness.

Dr. Torch has used this technology to control a robot with his eyes from 2,000 miles away

Now, this amazing wearable technology is used by military pilots, truck drivers and SCUBA divers to alert them if they’re too tired to complete their task and has even been used by Dr. Torch to control a robot with only his eyes from 2,000 miles away. He successfully guided the robot in the task of picking up one red solo cup and putting it in another.

There are so many uses for this technology, one method is to detect brain injury. Accurate detection and treatment is a high priority, especially since some types of brain injuries affect up to 70 per cent of the US troops in Iraq.

Other uses in the future could be for people missing limbs to use eye-controlled assistive devices. It can also enhance robotics, video gaming and software. It can also in diagnosing sleep disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders and Autism. It's already clear that the benefits of this technology could be very far-reaching.

Image credit: Dr. Torch

Dr. Torch said, "If Eye-Com can prevent the loss of life from even one truck or passenger plane crash or the environmental damage from one oil spill, it would all be worth it. And I am so inspired by the possibility that I could improve the quality of life for those with Parkinson’s, ALS, or muscular dystrophy. I’ve worked with several paralyzed individuals - friends as well as renowned theoretical physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking - and the idea that I could let their spirit shine forth has really driven me."

I couldn’t agree more, Dr. Torch is creating a better future for everyone, he’s an inspiration! I have the honor of listening to Dr. Torch speak about his technology and the future at the Think Big Festival in Coeur d’Alene, ID on August 22nd, 2015. I hope you’ll join me in this opportunity of a lifetime.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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