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Seniors Mobility AidsWheelchairs

Wheelchair AI and Hands-Free Tech Promotes User Independence

Written by Haley Burress
Last Updated :
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The wheelchair industry is on the cusp of a revolution. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are making wheelchairs hands-free.

Wheelchair users will soon be able to enjoy more independence and functionality.

So what does this mean for the future of the wheelchair industry?

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Embodied AI Wheelchair Framework

Best Seniors Wheelchairs
An impression of what an AI controlled wheelchair may look like

Scientists and engineers have proposed a robotic mobility solution. The robotic chair will use embodied artificial intelligence (AI) in its operations.

The wheelchair will also have a control interface that uses voice and gestures.

Through state-of-the-art hardware and software, it will provide productive mobility. This is the result of a 26-year (1) period of smart robotics research.

The embodied AI and hands-free human-machine interface (HMI) are both essential assistive technology for the chair. These technologies will help the elderly so they can avoid the need to stay in a nursing home.

In-home caregivers will have a reduced load due to the improvements.

The chair has easy-to-use components that suit the needs of users. The following section discusses these components.

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Constituents of the Proposed RW

The proposed robotic wheelchair has two main parts to ensure efficiency:

  • The hardware
  • The software

The Hardware

The hardware system makes up most of the chair’s visible parts. These parts are easy to remove or adjust for maintenance or secure packing.

Hardware design incorporates modular and upgradeable systems. So, you can switch a given part with the latest version without remaking the wheelchair.

The hardware comes with a platform that contains a seat and rechargeable batteries. To reduce soreness, you can easily tilt or recline the seat based on your desired posture.

The proposed robotic chair contains carbon fiber tracks instead of wheels. The weight of these tracks keeps the total wheelchair weight down for more stability.

Moreover, the tracks contain treads made from recycled car tires. You don’t have to worry about traveling down and upstairs or on uneven terrain as the treads increase the grip.

A backpack is bolted to the back of the seat. It stores your luggage so you can relax while moving from one point to another.

Finally, robotic arms and the retractable roof ensure comfortability. The roof protects the user from environmental conditions like rain.

The robotic arms, on the other hand, aid in controlling the chair. 

Check some of the types of chairs that climb stairs in the video below.

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The Software

The software makes the chair “smart.” It allows the chair to follow commands and avoid obstacles.

The wheelchair operates only when an authorized user commands it. The intention is to prevent misuse and theft cases.

Moreover, the wheelchair avoids remote operations, which prevents criminals from taking control of it against the user’s will.

Three security levels are in place to achieve these security requirements: standard, silver, and gold. The following autonomous systems work alongside the security provisions:

  • Automatic communication
  • Automatic leveling
  • Emergency signaling

The software ensures automatic communication. The communication is between pedestrians, the chair, and control lights.

When the control lights blink yellow, the wheelchair changes its direction.

The automatic leveling capability adjusts the seat to fit the user’s height and body size, so there is no strain while using the wheelchair.

It comes with an emergency signal for vulnerable populations. It can determine if the user is experiencing a health emergency and signal the caregiver or guardian.

The robotic chair also has a buffer that moves high or low to avoid a collision.

Other functions of the software component include:

  • Guide following
  • Docking
  • Robotic arm assistant
  • Stair climbing

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Testing

Because RW will serve a vulnerable population, the technology used must be safe. The testing will focus on autonomous operations like PW malfunctions.

To avoid potential risks, a tutorial guide will be available for first-time users. The guide will show how to change user preferences, turn features on and off, and set up the sensors.

Conclusion

The robotic chair is the future of independent living. It gives users a high degree of independence and security.

The wheelchair will make life easier for disabled persons and their caregivers.

man in an ai and hands-free wheelchair

Resources

1. Leaman J, Yang Z, Elglaly Y, La H, Li B. Embodied-AI Wheelchair Framework with Hands-free Interface and Manipulation [Internet]. Available from: https://ara.cse.unr.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/RW2022.pdf

About Author

Haley Burress
Haley has been working with seniors and their caregivers for more than 17 years. She has held local and national leadership roles in a variety of senior services and senior care agencies. Today, she is a sought after writer specializing in topics for older adults, their family members, and professional caregivers. When she isn't at her computer sipping coffee, you can find her hiking with her husband, son, and dog or trying a new cookie recipe in the kitchen. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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