Dublin Institute of Technology logo Focas Institute logo

Selected Projects

PhD Researcher: Johnalan Keegan
Supervisors: Dr James Condron, Dr Ted Burke, Dr Eugene Coyle

The objective of this project is to investigate the integration of biomechanical and bioelectrical measurements from the human body for applications in rehabilitation and assistive technology. By simultaneously measuring the movement of the body (using sensors including cameras, accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers and potentionmeters) and electrical signals emanating from it (e.g. electromyogram, electrococulogram), it is hoped that useful connections between the two can be idenitified, leading to the development of innovative assistive technology. In particular, this project aims to produce systems that facilitate communication and control by people with physical disabilities, including for example intelligent interfaces for controlling prostheses.

One of the major practical goals of this project is to develop a system that harnesses the electrooculogram (EOG) as a channel of communication and control. The EOG is a biopotential measured from points on the surface of the skin around the eyes. It arises due to a standing potential which exists between the cornea and retina of the eyeball and can be used to measure eye movements. This signal offers some advantages over other methods of eye-tracking, but there are also several key challenges associated with EOG-based communication systems, including time-varying sensitivity and offset of the signal as well as the fact that DC-coupled amplifiers must typically be used to record it. The work being undertaken in this project builds on similar systems developed previously by other members of the tPOT group.

For people with the most profound physical disabilities, voluntary movement (even of the eyes) is impaired to such a degree that communication of any kind becomes almost impossible. In such cases, a so-called brain-computer interface (BCI) may provide the only means of expression. BCI systems measure brain activity directly, translating it into a signal or signals that can control a computer, prosthesis or other device. A long term goal of this project is to develop a non-invasive BCI system based on the electroencephalogram (EEG).

Researcher: Brian Madden
Supervisors: Dr James Condron, Dr Ted Burke, Dr Eugene Coyle

The objective of this project is to investigate new methods for controlling assistive technology devices, focusing on the electrlarynx. How we interact with electronic devices has changed significantly in the last few years. The availability of new low-cost sensors (e.g. microchip accelerometers and gyroscopes) is driving innovation in the area of human-machine interaction, such as in mobile phones, laptops and games consoles. There is exciting potential for similar innovation in the control of assistive technology devices, for example through automated analysis of body movements or biomedical signals. Developments of this type could profoundly affect the quality of life of people with disabilities.

A specific practical objective of this project is to improve upon the conventional electro-larynx device that is used by many people who have undergone a laryngectomy. This electronic device is held against the skin on the front of the throat where it acts as a prosthetic larynx, producing an audible vibration that excites the vocal tract during voiced speech. In the same way that the vibrations normally produced by the human larynx are spectrally shaped by the vocal tract, those produced by the electro-larynx are shaped by the lips, tongue and other speech organs into recognisable speech sounds. However, the subtle pitch and amplitude control of the human larynx is not reproduced by a conventional hand-operated electro-larynx. The aim of this project is to improve upon existing designs by creating a hands-free device that allows improved pitch and amplitude control to produce more natural sounding speech.

Researcher: Mark Nolan
Supervisors: Dr Ted Burke, Mr Frank Duignan, Dr Eugene Coyle

Measurement and analysis of biological signals can provide remarkable insight into the workings of the human body, aid diagnosis of medical disorders and even facilitate communication by people with profound physical disabilities. It is on applications of the latter type that this project is primarily focused. Of course, for several decades, the use of biomedical signals in clinical applications has been widespread. However, recent advances in instrumentation technology have made it more practical (and economical) for biomedical signals to be used in applications that improve the daily lives of people with disabilities, such as augmentative and alternative communication systems.

The objective of this project is to use innovative measurement systems in the development of assistive technology. The initial prototype that is currently under development is a lightweight, wireless and low-cost sensor for the measurement of biomechanical and bioelectrical signals originating from the human body. These types of signals are measured in many clinical applications, but can also be harnessed as a channel of communication and control for people with profound physical disabilities. The development of such a sensor presents significant technical challenges in circuit design, signal processing and manufacturing. The motivation for developing this and other novel sensor systems is to facilitate convenient, unobtrusive and low-cost recording of useful signals from the body. Potential applications of this technology outside the area of assistive technology include physiological monitoring of patients by health professionals and personal health management.

Among the biomechanical signals which are under investigation in this project is the mechanomyogram which records the physical vibrations emanating from working muscles. The availability in recent years of tiny integrated circuit accelerometers now provides a convenient means of measuring this signal. Furthermore, sensors of this type have many other potential applications in assistive technology.

This project builds upon one previously undertaken by Mark Nolan in which a wearable, wireless ECG measurement system was developed, which facilitated remote monitoring of cardiac activity over an ordinary wireless computer (WiFi) network.

Project manager: Damon Berry
Researchers: Damon Berry, Ted Burke, James Condron, Paul Stacey, Johnalan Keegan, Mark Nolan, Brian Madden, Sheng Yu, Xu Chen

In today's society, individuals are the subject of a considerable amount of data gathering activity, both by private enterprises and public bodies. When using an Internet search engine, shopping (either online or in a shop), making a telephone call, using public transport or accessing a medical service, we contribute to the generation of vast datasets that are maintained by organisations and guarded as valuable assets. In addition to the understandable concerns about individual privacy, it is a thought-provoking fact that so much information regarding the movements and activities of people in society is owned by and visible to only the commercially privileged few. Should the public have free access to more data about its own activities? If so, how can privacy be appropriately safeguarded? Would the public availability of more data of this type benefit society and drive the creation of new knowledge?

The objective of this project is to create a centre for the promotion of publicly available data about the public, through the combination of innovative measurement technology with informatics infrastructure. Building on the existing expertise of DITís tPOT research group in the areas of biomedical signal measurement and health informatics, this project will incorporate:

History suggests that where rich information resources are freely available, innovative systems spring up around them (e.g. the many innovative tools based on Google Maps). Ultimately, the vision of this project is to give senses and memory to public spaces and to facilitate third party research and entrepreneurship through the provision of data as a public resource. Although certain specific sample applications are envisaged, the full range of applications will ultimately depend on the imagination of third parties who identify novel uses for the data.

Project manager: Damon Berry
Researchers: Fabrice Camous (lead developer), Frank Duignan, Xu Chen, Richard Hayes

The HIQA-funded EHRland project is a three-year Ä374k research and development project which began in August 2007. The EHRland project team are investigating the use of ISO standard EN13606 electronic health record communication (EHRcom) as the basis for development of a national electronic health record system for Ireland.

Electronic patient record systems have traditionally been designed and developed by informatics professionals while clinical experts have been somewhat sidelined after the initial analysis stage of the development cycle. The EHRcom architecture employs a novel two-level approach to modeling the content of health records which is expected to allow clinicians to take control of the shaping of the EHR systems of the future. It will also allow domain experts to continue to improve the structure and quality of the information that is exchanged when an electronic health record is exchanged between health organizations. The project will focus on two shared care scenarios.

Some of the technical challenges that are currently being investigated include identification of patients, health professionals, access to the EHR , the use of two level models with legacy information systems, the use of terminology systems to support semantic interoperability and the assignment of globally unique identifiers to shared health information.

Members of the tPOT group are involved in a number of other projects and initiatives, including the following: