UBC student creates device to give brother new life
Published Friday, October 11, 2019 8:02PM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 15, 2019 2:08PM PDT
They were born seven years apart, but there’s always been a tight bond between brothers Daniel and Michael Ko.
Daniel is the eldest and always looked out for his kid brother.
“Looking through the photos he always had his hand in my hand, his arm around my shoulders,” said Michael.
Now about a decade later, the roles have reversed.
Daniel uses a wheelchair because he has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, a disease that gradually weakens muscles, until a patient can no longer walk. Until recently he used a joystick to control the chair.
“But lately that's been hard for him and he hasn't been able to use his hands,” said his younger brother.
So Michael worked on a solution. He spent eight months learning how to build a voice activation system that would recognise his brother’s voice. He relied on instinct, YouTube videos and trial and error.
Now with simple commands, Daniel can make his chair move forward again, change direction and of course, stop.
“Honestly, just joy and happiness because it's been so long since I saw my brother control the wheelchair by himself,” said Michael, a UBC student.
They’ve named the system “Eva,” a moniker inspired by their favourite childhood movie “Wall-E.”
Daniel voice will change over time, however, and the system will need tweaking.
But Michael is happy to keep looking after someone who looked after him.