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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
Smart hat brings play to disabled
By Geoff Adams-Spink
Age & disability correspondent, BBC News website

Photo of the Dream-Racer control cap
The car is controlled by wearing a motion sensitive cap
A "smart" cap that allows disabled children to "drive" radio-controlled cars and boats, has been launched.

The Dream-Racer device has four motion sensors that detect small movements of the head, which are then fed wirelessly to control the toy's direction.

The UK invention has also been adapted to allow disabled people to play games on Sony's PlayStation consoles.

The technology was originally designed for a five-year-old boy who was paralysed in a car crash.

Electronics expert Mike Heath was approached by a charity group who asked him to come up with something to enable the boy to play independently and to improve his cognitive skills.

He later teamed up with Mike Taylor who specialises in marketing new inventions.

Direction of travel

Officially launched at the Naidex disability exhibition in Birmingham, the Dream-Racer technology consists of a black and yellow motion sensitive cap connected to a small box, worn on the waist or in a pocket, which contains a battery and radio transmitter.

Photo of a toy truck
The Venus Monster Truck is one of three models available

When a person wearing the device moves their head, a signal is sent to the transmitter which is then broadcast to the toy vehicle, mounted with a receiver.

"There are four motion sensors: one for forward, backwards left and right," said Mr Taylor.

"They are then wired in a way that allows two sensors to interact."

For example if the forward and left sensors are both activated the car would move diagonally left.

The technology can also be built into gloves or shoes which - like the baseball cap - would respond to small body movements.

The team behind Dream-Racer are now touring the country and giving demonstrations of their invention to groups of disabled children.

Wage earner

But the technology is not just limited to remote controlled cars.

The company is also developing the Dream-Gamer interface, a cap that works with Sony's PS1 and PS2.

There are a huge number of people who would benefit from being able to use a PC
Mike Taylor

Although not compatible with all games, particularly those that require combinations of quick fire button presses, it works well with arcade classics as well as titles such as Crazy Frog Racer 2.

It is currently in the final testing stage and should be available later this summer, closely followed by a computer mouse interface that is also in development.

"If you think about it, when you sit in front of your computer with your hand on your mouse, you move it up, down, left and right - and you can do the same thing with a hat," said Mr Taylor.

Unlike the Dream Racer, the technology would also be aimed at adults.

"There are a huge number of people who would benefit from being able to use a PC," said Mr Taylor.

In particular, the technology would be of benefit to disabled people who need to earn a salary, he said,

"If you have the capability to use a PC then you can conceivably write a letter in Word or use an Excel spreadsheet," he said.

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