January 17, 2020
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Diwakar Vaish

The India-born robotics researcher on his latest invention—a brain-controlled production wheelchair, Samarth—following his last humanoid robot, Manav.

Diwakar Vaish
Diwakar Vaish

How does ‘Samarth’ work?

The wheelchair is attached to an EEG sensor that the pat­ient wears on his head. The sensor receives the electric impulses emitted by neurons in the brain; amplifies, filters and sends them to a system that converts them into meaningful data, ena­bling a reaction. So as soon as you think you need to move forward, left, right or back, the wheelchair will do it.

Tell us how the idea came to you.

We have been working on EEG technology.... I learnt of people suffering from locked-in-syndrome and total paralysis; so the wheelchair came.

How do you ensure safety of the patient on the wheelchair?

There are two sensors INS­talled that can judge weight, height, obstructions, temperature etc. So if you do think of moving forward but there is danger, it will stop.

What is the cost?

Rs 2 lakh, like any other electric wheelchair; and can be ordered at the Robotics and Research at A-SET Training and Research Institute.

How have the sales been?

We have received many ord­ers from organisations and hospitals.

Do you think you could imp­rove Samarth, lower costs?

Yes, we are working on an upgrade, but the cost is imp­ossible to reduce.

Tell us about Manav.

Manav is special as it has brain-cloning capabilities. If he’s your robot and you hate app­les, it will learn to hate them as well!

You made your first robot when you were in school.

I was in class 12. The curiosity about robotics started when I was in class 5.

And all your robots know how to dance!

Absolutely! It has become a custom to make our robots dance as our last test.

Any new invention?

Many; all secret for now.

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