Gone are the days when operating a wheelchair meant you needed bulging biceps or the endurance of an Olympic athlete. Today's wheelchairs are motorized, computerized, and integrated with powerful technologies that make past wheelchairs seem like ancient relics. Let's take a look at some new devices and technologies for 2015 that will make using a wheelchair easier than ever before.
Many people love talking on their phone while driving. A number of wheelchair drivers would like the same ability, but using a phone can be difficult while multitasking can be difficult. Otto Bock has made a new device available for its wheelchairs that allows people to control devices like smartphones, TVs, gaming consoles, and other devices with Bluetooth technology.
The brand new interface lets people control these types of devices using the same controllers that drive the wheelchairs. Control devices like buttons, joysticks, and others on motorized wheelchairs are ergonomic in their design, so adapting them to interact with smartphones and computers was only natural.
The system can also provide the wheelchair user information, like what the expected range of the battery is and how much battery life is remaining. The interface can map out routes suitable for wheelchairs and locate appropriate bathrooms nearby. When connected to other household devices, the interface can also control electric window blinds, thermometers, and other devices responding to wireless interfaces.
The battery feature is important because when electric-powered wheelchair users go on an excursion, they may not know how long their battery will run since the energy required is a function of outside temperatures and the smoothness of the terrain. The device will eliminate that uncertainty.
The battery feature uses an Android app to determine a specific range projection. The current location is determined and compared with the battery's capacity. A calculation is then performed to determine if enough energy is available to return the wheelchair to its home point. The needed information is obtained from the Internet.
The user is told how much further they can travel safely through their cell phone. Whenever capacity begins running low, an alert goes to your smartphone notifying them how much power is left for a given distance.
Smarter Wheelchair Cushion
Comfort is very important for most wheelchair users, including those in assisted living. However, until now, not much thought has gone into designing the most comfortable wheelchair cushion available. Fortunately, new, high-tech cushions are being developed in 2015 to make users as comfortable as modern technology will allow.
Arizona State University's Design School has designed a cutting edge wheelchair cushion that calculates the pressure points of the user to prevent pressure sores and maximize comfort.
The students are also busy developing innovative wheelchair designs using sustainable products that utilize the principles of biomimicry -- a technology that attempts to duplicate designs found in the natural world using processes, materials, and functions of nature to solve design problems. One such project uses a honeycomb design to reduce materials and cost, while maximizing strength.
Giora Livne, an electrical engineer who is also quadriplegic, has teamed up with app developer Obed Ben Dov to make a device responsive to movements of the head. The Sesame Phone is linked to each user's face, allowing them to move the cursor and choose applications.
You could call on your phone, receive calls, use WhatsApp, SMS, play games, and eventually operate many devices at your home. So far, the phone has been tested on 10 users with varying types and degrees of paralysis.
It is hoped that the development of devices like this will open up the outside world to those who are using mobility devices, but it may also have applications to others as well.