Controlling wheelchairs with 3D Motion Technology

A Brazilian startup called HOO.BOX Robotics is developing a control system for wheelchairs that is completely powered by facial recognition technology.  It's called Wheelie and it was designed to be simple and comfortable. Check out their introduction video below. 

Wheelie is a robotic wheelchair that uses facial expressions, eye tracking, head movement, and speech recognition to control it.  It uses Intel's "RealSense" technology and translate them into wheelchair commands.  Wheelie is also a custom solution. People have different facial and physical limitations or comfort constraints.  Others will prefer head movement or even eye tracking solutions.  So each user's controls are programmed to be comfortable and accurate for each individual.  Check out the videos below of HOO.BOX demonstrating some of the custom controls. 

Wheelie was initially developed by researchers at Brazil’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, State University of Campinas (FEEC / Unicamp).  Some might be wondering why this technology is needed.  Wheelie will be extremely useful for people who suffer from conditions that limit the use of their hands and arms, such as cerebral palsy or results of a stroke.  Wheelie utilizes a laptop and Intel’s RealSense facial-recognition camera to capture and decipher nearly 80 points from a person’s face. The software can be programmed to recognize facial movements such as a smile, half smile, wrinkled nose, kiss face, tongue out or puffed-out cheeks and then assign those actions to driving the wheelchair forward, backward, left or right, or stopping.  The trick to making this practical was finding facial cues that were comfortable for the user.  

Check out the video below to see Wheelie being maneuvered around obstacles in an office space:

Layer's 3D Printed Wheelchair Design

Layer Go Wheelchair

Layer is the evolution of leading design agency Benjamin Hubert Ltd.  It is set to launch the world's first 3D printed consumer wheelchair during Clerkenwell Design Week at Clerkenwell-London on the 24th of May.  Layer has partnered with well known global brands such as Aesop, BMW, Braun, Cappellini, Herman Miller, Nike, Samsung, Panasonic, Oral-B, and Fritz Hansen to forge engaging, high-performance products that push the boundaries of possibility.  It can take up to 8 weeks to make a custom wheelchair, but Layer says they can do it in about two weeks.  The GO wheelchair prototype is the first project under Layer's new research division, LayerLAB, and has been created in collaboration with Materialise, world leaders in 3D-printed software and solutions. LayerLAB is a new inhouse division of Layer that facilitates experimentation and research into the future of physical and digital products.

The company has just made a prototype 3D-printed wheelchair, and it is designed to be more comfortable for its users.  The comfort comes from taking the user’s measurements and building a custom seat.  Materialise and Layer have been working on this wheelchair for the past six months, consulting with the patients and doctors to help create a wheelchair perfectly sculpted to suit the user’s body.

Specifically, there are 2 custom made pieces, the seat and the foot bay, which are built to accurately fit the user's body shape, weight and their disability.  The company maps the user's biometric information, ensuring that each chair is a good fit. The seat is printed from a semi-transparent resin combined with thermoplastic polyurethane for elasticity. Its exact placement is also adjusted based on the body mapping data, ensuring that the center of gravity is correct.  The geometry of the 3D-printed foot bay, which is constructed from titanium, is built to fit the user's leg length, sitting position and foot shape, and features an anti-slip finish.  The frame of the chair is built from titanium, with a simple design that cuts down the number of struts to a minimum, lowering the visual weight of the chair. The wheels are also lightweight, with carbon fiber spokes and molded push grip rims. The company will also make gloves designed specifically for the chair, featuring a surface that's designed to easily lock in to the push-grip rims, making it easier for users to self-propel.  Color selection and optional extras (transfer bars, push bars and wheel guards) are selected via an app designed by the company, through which the final order is placed.

There's no word yet on exactly how much the GO wheelchair will cost, or when the first units will ship. Expect to hear more when the product is launched later this month at the Clerkenwell Design Week in London.