New technology can increase the quality of life for people in electric wheelchairs

Save favourite 15 Oct October 2018
Rikard Hamrin, Research Engineer STC, and Benny Thörnberg, Associate Professor at STC, demonstrate how the contactless steering of an electric wheelchair works.

Mid Sweden University has in cooperation with the partner company Permobil, developed a new technology that allows you to steer an electric wheelchair with a wireless control. It can provide increased quality of life for people who can not manage the controls themselves, while also facilitating conversations with assistants or relatives while walking.

The idea of the technology is that the wheelchair should follow the person walking next to the user using a handheld control and stereo camera technology in the electric wheelchair. The new technology will be displayed during the Science & Innovation Day conference on October 16 in Sundsvall. Watch a demonstration video on YouTube (new window).

- It's not uncommon that two people must accompany the person who is unable to control the electric wheelchair himself. One person who controls and a person walking next to the person in the chair. The new technology allows the assistant or relative to go next to the user. It can also reduce the feeling that people "talk" over the head of the person in the wheelchair, says Lisbeth Kristensen, Associate Professor in Nursing.

Stereo camera technology used is similar to self-driving cars and in crash detectors. The camera determines the distance and angle the control that the accompanying person holds in their hand.

- In the wheelchair there is a small computer that makes calculations, which in turn are passed on to the wheelchair control system. The chair then follows the control automatically, says Benny Thörnberg, Associate Professor at the Mid University University Research Center Sensible Things that Communicate.

- The concept is at an early stage, but at Permobil we have seen a great need from a functional perspective, but also from the social aspect. A wireless control gives increased freedom as the assistant can communicate and move more naturally in relation to the user. The technology is mature for these applications and we see great opportunities to offer this to our users, says Per Larsson, Electronics & Alternative Drives Manager at Permobil AB.

The SMART project

The ongoing development work takes place in the research project SMART - smart systems and services - at Mid Sweden University, a three-year research project. The project, which has a budget of 63 million, is funded by the EU Regional Development Fund, the county of Västernorrland, the municipality of Sundsvall, the KK Foundation, the MId Sweden University and 25 large and small companies in the regions Västernorrland and Jämtland. The aim is to strengthen the innovation and competitiveness of the region's companies and organizations by increasing their knowledge and stimulated thinking to innovative use and creation of smart systems and services, Internet of Things.

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