Updated September 15, 2021
Wheelchairs have come a long way from the standard model that most people have come to know. Technology has made it possible for these assistive devices to make mobility more convenient and accessible to persons with disabilities. Today, just about 131 million people use wheelchairs and they still rely on decades-old design and technology to move around. While some developments have taken place for more specialized wheelchairs, the standard wheelchair didn’t get significant updates until fairly recently. Smart wheelchairs are finally entering the market, and it looks like they may be here to stay.
What is a Smart Wheelchair?
A smart wheelchair is a mobility assistance device that uses technology to collect data to perform a series of functions that further aid the user. It gathers information on the wheelchair user’s behavior and their interactions with the environment. This is made possible through cameras and sensors that are built to give the user feedback and make it easier for them to maneuver the wheelchair more easily and safely. Of course, tracking down touch sensor parts can be a challenge because they’re a modern innovation. This is why the process needs to start right at the beginning of the design process, where details of the touch sensor should be configured properly.
Apart from auditory or other sensory feedback systems, smart wheelchairs also have cloud-cased communication alerts that allow users to view their data and share it with loved ones or physicians. These special alerts can notify the user of their location or if their battery is running low. Some models can easily connect to mobile apps to sync these alerts. These are just some of the ways technology has enhanced the wheelchair.
Main Features of Smart Wheelchairs
Apart from ease of mobility, there are various features and accessories that smart wheelchairs may entail. They can also double as communication devices so that patients can easily reach their healthcare providers or family members when needed. Smart wheelchairs can also have a function that automatically adjusts the seat to change the pressure points for a more comfortable sitting position.
One feature that is a given for smart wheelchairs is a self-driving function. The Whill is an example of a self-powered wheelchair that makes mobility much easier for the user. Instead of two main wheels, it uses two larger wheels with 24 separate tires. This allows the chair to turn 360 degrees with effortless control. This wheelchair also has a four-wheel drive function if the user will be on rough or uneven terrain. Other smart wheelchairs, such as the iBot, have incredible functions. Apart from climbing staircases, the design allows users to sit at eye level with people who stand and walk. It also has a sophisticated navigation system and can adjust itself if it senses that it’s about to topple over.
Other Features of Smart Wheelchairs
There are also other important features that may not appear necessary at first glance but may end up as huge advantages. Some wheelchair users require reminders at specific times for various reasons like taking medications; smart wheelchairs should be easily configurable to set alerts for reminders such as moving around to avoid skin breakdown or going to the toilet. There are also additional assistive functions such as tilting design elements that allow users to move from wheelchair to bed or toilet and vice versa more with more ease.
The Future of Smart Wheelchairs Looks Bright
People with disabilities all have unique needs. Choosing the right smart wheelchair can help cater to many of those specialized requirements, whether you need a sturdy, self-driving unit or one with extra sensitive sensors to ensure you don’t topple over. The future of smart wheelchairs still has some ways to go, but it has already delivered so much promise and will continue to do so in coming years.
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For information purposes only. Not medical advice.