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:

BMW is building wheelchairs for the Paralympics

The 2016 Paralympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil between Sept 7th to the 18th. BMW has announced that they will be building 6 custom racing wheelchairs to start, one for each member of the U.S. team.  This is quite unusual for a car company, even though BMW designed a two-man bobsled for the U.S. Olympic team to use in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games.  The bobsled helped the U.S. overcome a 62-year medal drought at Sochi.  

The wheelchairs are being made by BMW's Designworks Group.

Each seat will be custom made for each racer, and the gloves to go with the wheelchairs will also be custom made from a 3D printer.  3D scanners are being used to custom fit these new chairs and gloves to each racer.  The chair will also be made out of carbon fiber which is a lot lighter and stronger than aluminum chairs. 

The Olympians will be able to test out just how fast these new chairs are, before they debut at the Rio Paralympics in September 2016.

The racers are anxious and excited to try the new piece of equipment.  Josh George, a former gold medalist in the 100 meters, seemed excited at the prospect of receiving it, but not only because it will help him with his craft.

“It’s the coolest-looking piece of equipment I’ve ever seen,” he said of the new design.

He also said, “If I’m pushing the BMW and other racers are pushing aluminum frames, I’m going to be able to go the same speed as them with less energy exerted,” George said. “That means at the end of a race, the last 5K, the last 10K, I’m going to have more in the tank than they are.” 

Meet Mac N'Cheez, a paralyzed rescue kitten

Veterinarian, Donna Terris, at the Massapequa Pet Vet, said that a Good Samaritan brought in a litter of 5 week old kittens abandoned by their mom.  Each kitten was quickly adopted, except one that was paralyzed from the waist down and unable to walk.  

The staff at the Massapequa Pet Vet named the remaining cat Mac N'Cheez, or Mac for short.  He had reportedly been brought to them in a macaroni and cheese box.  To better help the paralyzed kitten settle into his temporary home, technicians even constructed a make-shift wheelchair out of K'NEX or Erector set toy pieces. In a video by the Massapequa Pet Vet, Mac can be seen taking his first "steps" as they fastened the K'NEX/Erector Set wheelchair to his hind legs. Mac and Cheese quickly discovered he had a penchant for speed, whizzing off on his new set of wheels and basking in his new found mobility.

The toy wheelchair has been confused as a "Lego Wheelchair", but you can clearly see that they are not Lego.  It is most likely K'NEX or Erector set toy pieces.  Also, this should not be confused with the recent Lego Wheelchair the toy company came out with in January of 2016.  That's when Lego unveiled their first disabled figure.  The company later confirmed the tiny wheelchair will be part of the new Lego City set that will come out in the June of 2016. 

Doctors are still unsure why Mac's legs aren't working.  They are not broken and there doesn't seem to be a physical reason they currently won't work.  The wheelchair is the first step to recovery.  Mac has also started swimming in a little pool to hopefully stimulate and help rehabilitate his hind legs. 

Mac does respond to squeezes and seems to be able to feel pain on some parts of his hind legs - indicating that the hospital may be able to help him walk again.  Horowitz said Mac could be walking on his own within a few weeks and may soon be ready to find his forever home.  In the meantime you can follow Mac and Cheese's adorable zooms on the Massapequa Pet Vet Facebook page.

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.

WHILL Model A in Batman VS Superman

Batman VS Superman

Spoiler Alert!  If you're planning on watching the Batman vs. Superman Movie, Don't Read This Yet!

We're fans of the WHILL model A, here at EZ Lite Cruiser. We even wrote about their mobility aid a few months back.  We were pleasantly surprised to see it have some what of a significant role in the blockbuster film, Batman VS Superman. You can hardly see it in the picture above, but this is all we able to use at this point in the movie’s release. You can clearly see the tops of the armrests on the chair.  You see a clear shot of it when it is gifted to Bruce Wayne's employee, Wallace Keefe (played by Scoot McNairy) by Alexander Luthor Jr (played by Jesse Eisenberg).  Wallace Keefe is the Wayne Enterprises employee who wrote "You let your family die" and sent it to Bruce Wayne seen in the movie's trailers. 

Batman VS Superman

The critics have taken Batman VS Superman to the woodshed.  Its hard to find decent reviews and a lot of the scathing reviews are down right exaggerated.  We find it suspect that critics rate this movie a 28% on Rotten Tomatoes while the Audience score sits around 70%.  IMBD also rates it at a 7.2 out of 10.  The movie has grossed over $867 million world wide.  That is an astounding achievement but its being overshadowed by all the negative reviews.  Maybe it's all a marketing stunt to pull in the die hard fans BACK into the theaters for its R rated director's cut

Batman VS Superman

We are excited that WHILL was in a major block buster movie and we hope to see it again on the big screens. Till then, the EZ Lite Cruiser will soon be on one of the longest-running scripted television programs in the world.  More developments on this to come, stay tuned!