Two brothers have developed a device for power wheelchairs that offers advanced collision avoidance and connection to the Cloud
Spotted: Collision avoidance tech is an important innovation in automobile design. But safety tech is not just for motorists. Brothers Barry and Jered Dean set out to design a wheelchair for Barry’s daughter Katherine, who has cerebral palsy, that would allow her to travel independently and safely. The result is LUCI, a device that attaches to powered wheelchairs and turns them into a “smart” device.
LUCI uses multiple sensors that can detect hazards such as curb drop-offs, stairs or impending collisions and automatically slows down or stops the chair. It can also warn users if they are on an incline that may cause the chair to tip over, and can send an alert if the chair does tip over. In addition, there is software to connect the chair to the cloud, allowing users to interact with Alexa and Google devices and check whether the wheelchair is charged.
The Dean’s goal was to update the powered wheelchair with some of the tech used in other devices. Barry is an award-winning songwriter and Jared is an engineer, and the pair worked with partners in fields such as precision agriculture and autonomous vehicles, as well as staff at the University of Colorado-Denver Center for Inclusive Design and Engineering.
The Deans built a team of engineers and designers and gathered data from Katherine and other wheelchair users, realising along the way that the problem was not as straightforward as they originally thought. According to Jared Dean, “We had to think about everywhere you would go in a typical week. What we learned is this was a much more of a design challenge than we thought when we got into it. You’re working within centimeters of things, working in all environments, day and night, indoor and outdoor, on sidewalks instead of a street where you have a stripe to follow.”
While insurance companies have yet to fund the LUCI, many argue that safety for wheelchair users should be thought of as a necessity, not a luxury. In fact, there are a lot of innovators who would agree. At Springwise, we have covered innovations in accessibility that range from a haptic armband to help guide those with sensory difficulties, to inclusive lingerie.
Written By: Lisa Magloff