The wheelchair industry is on the cusp of a revolution. Wheelchairs are becoming hands-free because of advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.
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
Scientists and engineers have proposed a robotic mobility solution. The robotic wheelchair 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, the wheelchair will provide productive mobility. The wheelchair is a 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 wheelchair. 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 to the wheelchair.
The wheelchair 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 system makes up most of the visible parts of the wheelchair. It’s easy to remove or adjust these parts 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. It’s easy to tilt or recline the seat based on your desired posture to reduce soreness.
The proposed robotic wheelchair 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.
Bolted to the back of the seat is a backpack. The backpack is for storing 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 wheelchair.
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The software is what makes the wheelchair “smart.” It gives the wheelchair the ability 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. Such operations prevent criminals from taking control of the wheelchair 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 wheelchair, 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. Thus, you’ll not strain while using the wheelchair.
The wheelchair comes with an emergency signal for the vulnerable population. It can determine if the user is experiencing a health emergency and signal the caregiver or guardian.
The robotic wheelchair also has a buffer that moves high or low to avoid a collision.
Other functions of the software component include:
- Guide following
- Robotic arm assistant
- Stair climbing
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Because RW will serve a vulnerable population, the technology used must be safe. The testing will focus on autonomous operations like PW malfunctions.
A tutorial guide will be available for first-time users to avert potential risks. The guide will show how to change user preferences, turn features on and off, and set up the sensors.
The robotic wheelchair 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.
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