Friday, May 25, 2012

Northeastern University students develop eye controlled robotic arm that's happy to feed you

By posted May 24th 2012 2:48PM
Northeastern University students develop eye controlled robotic arm that's happy to feed you
As an alternative to receiving brain implants for robotic arm dominance assistance, check out this surprisingly cheap eye-tracking solution developed by six electrical engineering students at Northeastern University. Labeled iCRAFT, for eye Con­trolled Robotic Arm Feeding Tech­nology, the award-winning senior project drew its inspiration from one team member's difficulty syncing spoonfuls with the eating pace of elderly and disabled patients. Simply gaze at the on-screen box that corresponds to your food or beverage choice and the robotic arm will swing your way with grub in its grip. Ambitious DIY-ers can chase down the open-sourced software behind iCRAFT, and construct a contraption of their own for about $900 -- considerably less than self-​​feeding rigs living in the neighborhood of $3,500. You can catch a video of the robot arm serving up some fine Wendy's cuisine after the break.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Aaron Winborn (a person with ALS) and his Eye Writer Experience

This is Aaron Winborn, a person with ALS.  He learned about the eye writer project last summer and convinced his father to build one for him.  Aaron has it now, and is planning to demonstrate it at the Hershey PA ALS support group next month.

Aaron writes to me about his experience in building the Eye Writer:

I am attaching a photograph of the device, worn by my father on the right. As you can see from it, our design is slightly different than the original that was built for the artist. In particular, during testing, we realized that the weight of the camera caused the whole thing to slide down your nose when it was attached to an eyeglass frame. Thus, we attached it to a visor instead.

This is an early iteration; my father is working on a new version with some planned improvements to the design based on his experience building it.

In general, after using it, I believe that it will be easier to use when/if I am in a locked in state, because it easily loses its calibration if I move my head just a little. That is why that if you take into the site where the project was 1st developed, you will see that during the original development, they strapped their volunteers' heads down:
Pictured:  Aaron (in middle) Aaron's Father (on right) Victor Winborn, and his daughter Ashlin Phifer-Winborn (on left)

Power Wheelchair Care--Tips for Power W/C Users

Used with permission from my friend and colleague, Antoinette Verdone.  As always, I give my thanks to her for letting me share this informative newsletter.

Power Wheelchair Care
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Inspired Solutions

Assistive Technology Newsletter from Antoinette Verdone, MSBME, ATP

Picture of Antoinette Verdone
Power Wheelchair Care
Tips for Power Wheelchair Users

Picture of Power Wheelchair
Power wheelchairs are complicated devices. Using a power wheelchair can be overwhelming at first. Here are some tips to keep your chair in good condition and working for you!

Picture of road with the word slow written on the road.

If you are a new power wheelchair user, take your time to familiarize yourself with the chair and how it operates. A power wheelchair has very powerful motors, and thus the power of the chair should be respected. Make sure you always drive the chair on smooth, even surfaces. Any bump over ½” can cause the chair to lose control easily. Also be aware of inclines as the chair could tip over if you do not navigate inclines carefully. When going down steep inclines, you may find tilting the seat back (if you have that feature) slightly will make the ride more comfortable. Be aware that some chairs may “lock out” if tilted too far. Power wheelchair users should be particularly careful with cross slopes - slopes from left to right when facing the slope - as power wheelchairs are not designed to navigate much cross slope. If it looks steep to the eye - be aware!

Picture of diamond shaped safety sign.

When transferring in/out of the wheelchair, turn the power off.

Footplates and armrests are not designed to be weight-bearing surfaces and should not be used to take your weight when transferring. This can cause damage to the chair and possibly severely injure you.

Power wheelchair joysticks are “proportional.” This means that the farther you push the joystick the faster it will go. Once you push the joystick all the way, it will not go any faster – do not put extra force on the joystick. Most chairs have some sort of speed control to limit the top speed that the chair will go. The speed and other features of the chair can be programmed to suit your needs. Contact your wheelchair provider for assistance in adjusting the speed.

When the chair is stopped, the breaks automatically come on. The breaks will prevent the wheels from turning, even when the power is off. You cannot manually push a power wheelchair unless you release the motors. Releasing the motors should only be done in the case of an emergency. A power wheelchair is very heavy, and you can quickly lose control of the chair if you are pushing it manually. If you look at the bottom of the chair, you will see release levers. Some chairs have one on each side, and some only have one. If you are not sure how to disengage the motors, call your wheelchair provider.

Picture of cartoon of a battery.

As you use the chair, you will have a regular charging routine. The chair should be charged when the battery indicator goes below 50% charge. If you leave the chair unused and not charging for an extended period of time, it will completely lose its charge. If this happens, the only option is to replace the batteries, which can be costly. (When in doubt, connect the chair to the charger!)
· You cannot over charge the chair. The charger will turn itself on and off as long as it is plugged in.
· The typical life expectancy of power wheelchair batteries is about three years. This is very dependent on how you use the chair. Some people will be able to get much longer use, others much shorter. If your batteries are not lasting for one day of typical use, call your wheelchair provider.


A power wheelchair should always be kept in a climate-controlled environment. Extreme heat or cold will damage the batteries and the electronics of the chair. A power wheelchair should not be stored out of doors or in a garage (or other non-climate controlled space.)

picture of water faucet crossed out

A power wheelchair has electronics and batteries that can malfunction if they get wet. Avoid crossing puddles in the chair that may splash water onto the chair. Wrap a clear plastic bag over the joystick and controller if you must drive in light rain. DO NOT OPERATE A POWER WHEELCHAIR IN HEAVY RAIN.

picture of man with a wrench
Listen to the chair and become familiar with the sounds that it makes. If you notice that the chair is making any unusual noises, contact your wheelchair provider.

On a regular basis keep the chair clean by wiping surfaces with a damp towel, using mild detergent when needed. Do not immerse any part of the chair in water. Special attention should be made to keep wheels and the bottom portion of the chair clean to avoid debris from damaging the wheels or motors.

Do regular checks to make sure all wires and connections are securely connected and free of fraying. Notify your wheelchair provider if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

picture of light bulb

I would love to hear your ideas on this topic, please go to my blog - to leave your comments and/or suggestions about power wheelchair care.

Have a question about power wheelchairs or other assistive technology click here to send me your questions.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mapua students build new wheelchair

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Mapua’s computer engineering students with their voice-activated wheelchair.| Zoom
Manila, Philippines - Five graduating computer engineering students from Mapúa Institute of Technology have developed a voice-activated wheelchair for the benefit of physically disabled individuals.

Darryll Jade Arias, Francis Mark Luna, Aljon Santillan, Lloyd Edwinson Arellano and Jonathan Temeña built a prototype of the wheelchair, distinguished by its unique safety features.

This new wheelchair has the ability to stop automatically and detect objects with the help of the infrared sensors installed at the front and back. It also has three pairs of LED lights located at the back that will light up when the infrared sensors detect obstacles on its path, preventing users from colliding with the objects blocking their way.

The group also placed a pair of sensors beneath the wheelchair to give it the capability to halt its movement once the sensors detect the lack of surface underneath, a feature that will prevent users from falling down stairs.

The wheelchair can also be elevated to a height of eight inches at most, high enough to steer clear of sidewalk gutters.

“We wanted to help people with walking disability, especially those who have lost the ability to use their arms. They are our main inspiration. We want to boost their morale by allowing them to go to places with the slightest help possible from other people,” said Arias, the group’s leader.
It took the team nine months to complete the model under the guidance of their adviser Ayra Panganiban, and with the help of design consultant Analyn Yumang.

The team conducted several tests to assure the wheelchair fs safety and functionality, keeping in mind that the protection of the user is the utmost priority.

“With these new features installed, we offer users easier control and more security. The added elevation function of the wheelchair makes it more mobile and dependable. As of now, this project would be very helpful but still not perfect. We are subjecting this design to further improvement, h the group said.

According to Panganiban, they plan to enhance the prototype based on the recommendations of the panel members during the final design presentation. Panganiban previously worked with another team of students who designed the award-winning dual-purpose device for the blind.

“The design of innovative inventions is based on the outcomes-based education initiatives of Mapúa since it promotes lifelong learning activities.

“The students are encouraged to create high-impact designs or researches,” she said.

Phoenix councilman rides in wheelchair for a day-"hardest thing I ever did"

At 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Councilman Tom Simplot started his day as usual, at the Metro light rail stop in front of his home in central Phoenix.
But on this particular morning, there was something out of the ordinary.

Simplot, a healthy, able-bodied person, was in a wheelchair.

He wasn't hurt.

He didn't get into an accident.

On this day, Simplot was taking part of the Wheelchair Challenge to learn more about the challenges people with disabilities face, and to raise awareness on civil rights issues for the disabled.
Jennifer Longdon, chairwoman of the Mayor's Commission on Disability Issues, presented the challenge to several elected officials via Facebook. Simplot was the first to bite.

"As a person who makes policy, you need to know what others go through," Simplot said.
In just a day using the wheelchair, Simplot said he realized several challenges.

First, when getting on board the light rail, he had to make sure his wheels were perfectly perpendicular to the entrance, otherwise the chair would get caught in a groove in the door.
Also, he forgot to turn on the breaks when he got on board. So when the light rail took off, so did Simplot.

Simplot also realized how hard being in a wheelchair was.

His mid-back started to ache and he soon realized how difficult it was to open and go through doors without standing up.

"I've jumped off of airplanes, I've rappelled down buildings and I've spelunked to the bottom of Kartchner Caverns," Simplot said. "This is, by far, the most challenging thing I've done."

Mayor Greg Stanton is expected to take the Wheelchair Challenge at a later date.
Stanton, a huge basketball fan, likely will shoot some hoops in a wheelchair as part of his challenge.

Read more:

RESNA History Pilot Project Opportunity at the Annual Conference

The RESNA History Committee is charged with the collection and website display of artifacts relating to the history of assistive technology, especially those relating to RESNA or its members.
In addition to physical objects, history also includes stories, recollections, and reflections. In an effort to capture these elements, a participatory history project will be piloted at the annual conference in Baltimore.
All those attending the conference are invited to contribute to this effort by providing verbal descriptions of significant RESNA-related assistive technology events and experiences. This could include stories about colleagues, on-the-job situations, special occasions, or personal memories. A list of sample questions and topics can be found below.
To participate, just bring your memories along with any props you might have to the conference and plan to spend no more than 5 minutes describing them. Participation by small groups as well as individuals is welcomed. A camcorder will be set up in the Computer Tech Lab to record your history contribution. (No video material collected at the conference this year will be made public.)
After the conference, the History Committee will evaluate the success of this trial effort by reviewing the videos and reading your comments and then consider strategies to employ to enhance this process at next year’s conference.
Your suggestions about this pilot effort are most welcomed. Please let me know if you would like to participate.
See you in Baltimore,
Dave Jaffe
RESNA History Committee Chair
RESNA History Website