Rolling Without Limits

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Smart Wheelchair Tracks User’s Vitals
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Smart Wheelchair Tracks User’s Vitals

Wheelchairs have been redesigned and modified a number of times by numerous inventors and experts in order to better serve its purpose in catering the needs of its users. But an Intel intern had uniquely redesigned and improved the mobility chair. He built it with the ability to track vital signs and when unstable, it contacts 911. How cool is that?

Tim Balz is not your average 20-year-old college intern. He is a college sophomore who the famous chipmaker Intel wisely hired for a summer internship. This young genius served as team leader for a multidisciplinary group of interns whose specialty or expertise ranged from software to hardware and computer science to the use of interface.

This intelligent young intern and his team ingeniously developed the Smart Wheelchair – a connected data machine that uses the internet and a heavy dose of Intel technology in order to function incredibly by tracking the vital signs of its user. Balz said he has a passion for helping wheelchair users so he spent his summer, along with his team of experts, designing and developing this smart device in order to help people from potentially fatal or dangerous situations.

Balz’ team created the Smart Wheelchair, which is also known as the Connected Wheelchair, with a computer board or touchpad and other advanced technological features that make the mobility device incredible and outstanding, which in fact, caught the eye of the famous physicist Steven William Hawking. The Intel interns mounted an Intel Galileo (a single-board microcontroller that makes interactive environment or object building a lot easier) in the chair allowing it to collect sensor data from the chair itself.

Accelerometers were also added to track speed while other high tech sensors were incorporated to keep track on voltage and battery life. These features indeed make the Smart Wheelchair one of a kind. But what makes it more interesting and definitely unique is its ability to track the vitals of the user.

In order to achieve that feature, the young developers used a bio-harness which is worn around the user’s chest. This bio-harness enables the wheelchair to collect biometric data from the user such as skin temperature, heart rate, and respiratory rate or breathing.

The reason it is name Connected Wheelchair is because it is connected to the internet. It has a Wi-Fi hotspot on board so that the data acquired from the device as well as the data gathered from the user can be streamed to a family member or a caregiver.

With its ability to track vital signs, the wheelchair could also detect if the user has fallen over, a potentially dangerous situation especially for people suffering from quadriplegia. According to Balz, if the user is still in such position for already five seconds, the tablet connected in the wheelchair activates and says “if you don’t cancel this call, 911 will be called and assist you in your emergency”.

The Intel tablet uses an accessibility application which adds more functionality to the mobility chair. The app enables users to mark their point of location as well as its accessibility whether they are good and accessible or bad and inaccessible. With the app, the users can also map the best route in order to reach a destination enabling them to avoid intersections, busy streets, curb cuts which reduced the time spent in riding.

Balz and his team designed a wheelchair that is promising and could definitely make a change in the world. Hawking even said that the device is an amazing example of how technology of the disabled is often a proving ground for the technology of the future.

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