Semi-autonomous Robotic Powered Wheelchair Functionality

Period of Performance: 01/01/2015 - 12/31/2016


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Innovative Design Labs, Inc.
Minneapolis, MN 55413
Principal Investigator


? DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Mobility limitations are the leading cause of functional limitations among adults and are strong predictors of activities of daily living (ADL). Impaired mobility often results in decreased opportunities to socialize and can lead to social isolation, anxiety, and depression. There are many impairments for which driving a powered wheelchair can be a challenge-including upper-body physical impairments, cognitive impairments, and also visual impairments. According to surveys of clinicians, more than 50% of powered wheelchair users reported complaints with wheelchair control, and 10-40% of candidate manual or powered wheelchair users are unable to be prescribed either. The potential for using robotic technology in powered wheelchairs has been recognized for decades. Despite significant advances in smart wheelchair technologies, there has been limited success transitioning them to the market. Hypothesis: We hypothesize that the failure to commercialize this technology is in part due to the lack of a commercially viable, robust, and cost effective sensing and processing platform which can be added to existing powered wheelchairs. Specific Aims: Innovative Design Labs (IDL) proposes to create a commercially viable, add-on system to powered wheelchairs that enables short-term, short-distance assisted control features and functions to improve the mobility of its powered wheelchair users. To prove the feasibility of this effort in phase I IDL wil 1) Investigate stakeholder requirements including user interfaces and overall system requirements; 2) Design and prototype the hardware system and software framework; 3) Implement a set of semi-autonomous capabilities; and 4) Evaluate the system performance against stakeholder requirements. The overall phase I effort will demonstrate the ability of a commercially viable product prototype to add smart wheelchair capabilities to existing powered wheelchairs.