KD Smart Chair and UCSD Developing Autonomous Wheelchair

KD Smart Chair and UCSD Developing Autonomous Wheelchair

University of California San Diego develops an autonomous KD Smart Chair power wheelchair. KD Smart Chair announces their collaboration with the Jacobs School of Engineering to have an open source, low cost, powered wheelchair with assistive and autonomous navigation technologies.

The UC San Diego Smart Open Source Wheelchair project will deliver an affordable modular design that can be replicated around the world and used as a test bed for future development in healthcare safety for the patient that requires the use of wheelchairs.

Project manager Shemaiah Barton pictured first to the left from the KD Smart Chair wheelchair.
Jacobs School of Engineering team. Top from left to right: Nick Rock, Jesus Fausto, Alexander Guthrie, Brittany Nguyen, Jack Frimodig, Joey Gronovius, Christian Benitez. Bottom from left to right: Wayne Li, Shemaiah Barton, Isabella Gomez, Fernando Lopez, Ryan Lin.

The team of undergraduate engineers at the Jacobs School of Engineering University of California, San Diego is working hard to achieve a Smart Wheelchair to make autonomy and a higher quality of life available to users. The mission of the Smart Wheelchair project will be an open source, low cost, powered wheelchair with assistive and autonomous navigation technologies.


KD Smart Chair being used in the Affordable Smart Wheelchair project.

Dr. Jack Silberman Ph. D. is the principal investigator of the team. He has more than 20 years of experience in robotics and automation. Key team members include Dr. Deborah Foster Ph. D. and project manager Shemaiah Barton. The entire team of student researchers contributes to the project in a variety of ways to reach their goal of designing a power wheelchair that can improve people’s lives. 

The smart wheelchair project is providing students opportunities for medical and robotics research in the area of Quality of Life (QOL) which will help them develop into professional engineers with applicable skills when they enter the job field while providing an open source hardware and software design.

The project manager for the team, Shemaiah Barton says "Our progress so far is that we have tapped into the joystick of KD Smart Chair and are able to move the wheelchair via wireless computer controls. We have partnered with #MeAction and the Paralyzed Veterans of America. We are currently in the process of gathering user studies to find out what the best human user interface will look like. We are looking into the idea of using a phone or tablet application with planned destinations throughout the home where a user could choose out of a list of locations where they would like to go. Our current plan is to use a voice recognition similar to how Amazon's Alexa can recognize a voice command and respond with feedback. Our goal would be for a user to be able to call the wheelchair to come to them if it is not beside them. Once in the wheelchair, the user will be able to give a command to take them to a destination inside their house. The next step for our team is to mount sensors on the wheelchair so that it will have object detection; this will include stair and drop off detection as well as provide the ability for a wheelchair to navigate through doorways and made tight turns without any user assistance. This is done using LIDAR and a 3D camera similar to the design of autonomous cars. We plan to have this obstacle avoidance," says Shemaiah Barton.



CHUM Center for Human Urban Mobility conference September 20th, 2018 group presentation. From left is Fernando Lopez and right is Shemaiah Barton.

Currently, commercially available power wheelchairs may not be affordable by low-income families especially in developing countries. Moreover, these don't have computers and sensors onboard to enable smart safety to behave to aid navigation. 

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