Date
22 September 2017
Dr. Eric Tam (right), iWheelchair project coordinator, with wheelchair user Philip Wong. Photo: Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Dr. Eric Tam (right), iWheelchair project coordinator, with wheelchair user Philip Wong. Photo: Hong Kong Polytechnic University

PolyU researchers develop smart wheelchair system for disabled

People who suffer from stroke or reduced mobility find it hard to operate devices and equipment at home, but now there is a new smart system that can help them do it without help from others.

The iWheelchair intelligent wheelchair system, developed by a team from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, allows people with disabilities to control home devices, such as television sets, electric curtains and electric beds, through a computer installed in their wheelchairs, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported on Thursday.

The tablet computer is connected to devices through Bluetooth technology, and it has a control mechanism made of fabric instead of a touchscreen, which allows the user to operate it just by moving their thumbs.

In addition, the system comes with sensors that alert a user if they have to change their diapers when a certain level of moisture is reached.

An SMS alert will also be sent to a caretaker’s phone should the system user fall from the wheelchair.

The innovative system is designed not only to help wheelchair-bound people manage their daily routine with more ease but also to lighten the burden of caretakers.

The new invention is not cheap, however. At the moment, one set, excluding the wheelchair and the tablet computer, costs about HK$25,000 (US$3,222).

The team is looking for a commercial manufacturer in the hope of lowering the price through mass production.

Dr. Eric Tam Wing-cheung, assistant professor at PolyU’s interdisciplinary division of biomedical engineering and the project coordinator of iWheelchair, said the next step is for the team to coordinate with others to get more ideas and add more features to the smart wheelchair system.

The iWheelchair system won a bronze medal award in the 2015 Seoul International Invention Fair.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal

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