Friday, April 14, 2023

A new kind of wheelchair--hands free, PURE

My first semester at the University of Illinois in 1958 I noticed the outstanding services for the disabled--buses, ramps, wheelchairs, everything accessible decades before the rest of the country moved in that direction. I can still remember the man with no arms who ate with his feet pushing the wheelchair with the strength of his lower body of the friend with no legs. That's why it's good to see the technology at U. of I.  for hands-free wheelchairs Hands-free wheelchair prototype achieves major milestone | Mechanical Science & Engineering | UIUC ( "Personalized Unique Rolling Experience."
"PURE, Personalized Unique Rolling Experience, [is] a hands-free wheelchair that operates similarly to a Segway where the rider leans in a desired direction. The unique aspect of PURE is that it rolls on a ball or “spherical” wheel. It is based on the concept of a dynamically stable ball-based robot (ballbot) and uses an omniwheel system to drive and control the spherical wheel. PURE automatically transitions between three driving behaviors. Steer and Spin are similar to a typical wheelchair, in which the user can steer forward, backward or spin in place. Slide is unique and allows the user to move laterally, like an office chair. To accommodate for limited torso range of motion of some users, PURE uses sensors to estimate leaning and twisting motions and amplifies these signals to control the ballbot’s direction and speed.

“The development of PURE has been guided by our immutables – that it be lightweight and maintain a small footprint. We want to ensure that the current independence of manual wheelchair users would in no way be limited by PURE. If we were to develop a hands-free device that was so heavy that it prevented users from easily transferring it into and out of their vehicle, or if it was so large that it wouldn’t maneuver around typical living spaces, we would have missed the mark. Any device that compromises current levels of independence just won’t be used during daily life,” Bleakney said."

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