Developing high-tech electric-powered wheelchairs is hardly news these days. Leading wheelchair and mobility firms like WHILL and SoftWheel have already developed and sold innovative wheelchair products in the market.
These companies are heavily involved in combining style, innovation, functional versatility and advanced technology to push the boundaries of the wheelchair and produced innovative wheelchair products like the iconic WHILL Model M and the disruptive SoftWheel.
However, there is one important thing that these companies haven't yet mastered or created: the voice-controlled wheelchair. Fortunately, this one big challenge has already been conquered by a small group of faculty members and student from India’s Kurukshetra University.
The Indian team and their voice-activated wheelchair project
The increasing demand for low-cost, more comfortable and more advanced wheelchairs has prompted a small group of faculty members and students to take up the challenge of building the next wheelchair. The small groups of students and faculty members from India’s Kurukshetra University have joined forces to work in the next-generation wheelchair that would contribute to the betterment of the people with disabilities or special needs.
But building the next wheelchair is not an easy task. First, they need to start from the scratch. In addition to that, the group also faces some technical difficulties and challenges ahead, which include some issues in technology, money, time and technical knowledge.
Luckily, after months of hard work and intense development, the group has managed to produce a working prototype of the voice-activated wheelchair. The newly developed voice-controlled wheelchair has been programmed to take commands in English. It can accept seven commands like stop, run, reverse, slow left, right and fast.
In addition to seven commands, the wheelchair can also be customized as per the need of the patient. Best of all, this new wheelchair prototype has already been tested with an impressive 95% success rate. When introduced to the public, the new wheelchair prototype quickly gained attention and received numerous praises. This new development is expected to benefit patients suffering from spinal cord injuries who can still speak.
According to Sanjay Kajal, a senior faculty member of KU’s mechanical engineering department, the wheelchair’s speech recognition technology had a potential to help people with disabilities. Vineet Kumar, a faculty member of the University Institute of Engineering and Technology (UIET), claimed that the new voice-controlled wheelchair can be produced with a maximum cost of Rs 30,000 or around $430.
In addition to the voice-controlled wheelchair, the group also plans to develop a prototype of a mind-controlled wheelchair. This prototype of a mind-controlled wheelchair, according to the engineering department, may receive an electrical signal produced by the body’s skeletal muscles. If done right, the mind-controlled technology could be the next big thing on wheelchair technology.
Image credit: Gautam Kumar/Youtube screencap