study has been conducted to reduce the physical and cognitive requirements of
people with wide ranging disabilities that limit their independent mobility. A
prototype of the smart wheelchair system has been developed based on a
conventional wheelchair that is commonly available in the market, with the
addition of related electrical and mechanical advancements. Voice and gesture
controlling interfaces are deployed on this system in addition to the
conventional joystick controlling interface to enhance its’ natural interaction
with the user. Moreover, an obstacle avoiding system is used to ensure the
safety of the user. This paper describes our design and discusses the current
status of the developed system prototype.
Keywords—Power wheelchair, Smart
wheelchair, voice control, Gesture control, Obstacle avoiding system
The degradation of mobility is one
of the major issues that degrade the independent living ability of
elderly/disabled people. They need assistance from caregivers for their daily
activities. But today the gap between the supply and demand of caregivers is
widening and developing of devices that can support the elderly/disabled people
in their day-to-day life has a great importance. According to several studies
that have carried out previously, both children and adults get benefit from achieving
access to a means of independent mobility 1, 2. Independent mobility
increases vocational and educational opportunities for people while reducing
dependence on caregivers and promotes feelings of self-reliance. For children,
independent mobility acts as the foundation for their early learning.
Non-ambulatory children lack access to the wealth of stimuli afforded
self-ambulating children. This causes deprivation and reduced motivation that
may lead to learned helplessness. For adults, independent mobility is an
important aspect of self-esteem.
Due to these facts, mobility
assistive devices such as robotic wheelchairs are being developed recently 3,
4, 5, 6, 7. Most of the commercially exiting robotic wheelchairs are
equipped with controlling interfaces like joystick. However, human friendly
interactive interfaces are preferred by elderly/disabled people instead of low
level controlling interfaces with limited abilities because of their ability to
maintain natural interaction with the users 8. Further, people with
restricted muscle movements may not be able to command the conventional
joystick controlled wheelchairs.
these reasons, smart wheelchairs with more interactive features and alternative
controlling interfaces for conventional joystick, has been a topic for many
research projects in recent years. But few researches have been successfully
transformed into a commercial product. Furthermore, none has
integrated more than one controlling interfaces on a single power wheelchair.
Our aim is to develop a commercially
viable smart wheelchair system with voice and gesture interface for controlling
in addition to the conventional joystick. This system will reduce the physical and cognitive
requirements of people with wide ranging disabilities that limit their
independent mobility. This smart wheelchair is based on a most common
commercially available conventional wheelchair transferred into a power
wheelchair system with the addition of three control modes and an interface
module interposed between the different control modes and power module of the
wheelchair. Since this wheelchair will be used by elderly/disabled
people, a safety concern is provided by deploying an obstacle avoiding system
using a set of ultrasonic sensors attached to the wheelchair which will detect
any obstacle and stop the wheelchair movements at a given distance despite of
any user command.
So it can be
believed that, this smart wheelchair will eventually enhance the rapport
between the human users and the assistive robotic aid in order to uplift the life
quality of elderly/ disabled people.