A new method of maneuvering a wheelchair into your wheelchair accessible van with only your nose has been created using a series of controlled sniffs. This system is also designed to allow users to communicate over the internet or in writing.

How does it work? A sensor is placed at the opening of the nostril that measures changes in air pressure and then translates these electrical signals to a computer with a USB connection where the software takes over from there.

Research was conducted for the new nose controlled wheelchair on 96 able-bodied volunteers and 10 quadriplegics with great results. Everyone navigated a complicated path as well as played video games using the technology. Some users were able to match the speed and accuracy of a joystick.

The nose controlled wheelchair works by measuring a variety of sniffs. A “double sniff in” moves you forward, a “double sniff out” moves you backwards, a “sniff out and then in” implies left, and a “sniff in and then out” implies right. Repeating the command allows for sharper turns.

Three patients trying out the nose controlled wheelchair have a condition called Locked-In Syndrome which reduces all voluntary movement to only being able to blink their eyes, yet they retain full cognitive function. After much practice, these patients were able to communicate with family members.

Eye tracking devices already exist for these patients; however the sniff controller has some advantages. For one, it does not rely on stable capture, so bumps will not limit the sniff controller. Also, eye tracking devices require a user to devote their eyes to generating signals instead of maintaining attention elsewhere. Lastly, the cost is only around $350 for the sniff controlled wheelchair and could be considerably less with mass production.