In our ERC project (OdorSpace), we uncovered the speed, accuracy, and robustness of human sniffing behavior. This led us to hypothesize that we could use sniffs as control-signals. We built a sniff-sensor, and used signals generated by sniffs to power external devices. We call this the sniff-controller. We found that healthy individuals could use the sniff-controller to actuate a computer with speed and accuracy similar to those of a mouse or joystick, and that completely paralyzed individuals could use the sniff-controller to communicate text, and even to drive an electric wheelchair. The sniff-controller has dramatically improved the lives of a small number of individuals who participated in our studies. These individuals, who previously had no means of communication, now surf the web and send us emails using the sniff-controller. That said, the current results were in the context of a scientific experiment where we have demonstrated that if highly qualified individuals spend significant time with a patient, they can implement the sniff-controller. But would a naïve user be able to use the device if they purchased it by mail? Can the device transform to be a “product”? Moreover, can the sniff-controller serve markets other than the disabled? These critical questions are first on the mind of anybody who would consider commercializing this invention. To answer these critical questions, the current proposal’s goals are: 1. To optimize the device. 2. To conduct a proof of concept pilot, consisting of a platform that allows individuals to order the device off the web, use it, and provide feedback on its use. Such a platform will provide a backbone for a company, which can either spin-off as a start-up, or be bought by an existing company. This project may transform the lives of countless individuals in need, including survivors of stroke, trauma, and neurodegenerative disease.
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