“Look, Ma! No hands!” That was a favorite childhood cry when we discovered that we could ride our bikes with our hands off the handlebars. But for some people with physical disabilities, being able to navigate without the use of functioning hands can be an enormous challenge.

Motorized wheelchairs have given people the ability to move about independently, but most require that the user manipulate a joystick or other device to control the wheelchair. For individuals who do not have control of their hands, this is a problem. Some paralyzed people can use puff sticks to use their breath to control their chairs, but a new interface from Hoo-Box provides an easier alternative.

The Wheelie system relies on facial recognition. The user teaches the system a variety of facial expressions, and then assigns these expressions to various motions such as forward, left, right, or stop. An onboard computer uses a 3D camera to monitor the user’s facial expressions, and then uses real-time analysis to produce quick response.

The system is available as a kit that can be retrofitted to an existing wheelchair that has a joystick control. According to the company, it can take just seven minutes to install.

This is another example of how digital technology can provide new ways for individuals to interact with mechanical devices, resulting in an improved quality of life.