Asia-Pacific Apr 23, 2012
PHILIPPINES: People with physical disabilities who have lost control of their hands stand to benefit from a new voice-activated wheelchair created by five graduating computer engineering students from the Mapua Institute of Technology.
Although the idea of a voice-activated wheelchair is not new, the Mapua team added safety features that include infrared sensors that will make the wheelchair stop when it encounters obstacles.
“We have formulated the idea of creating this design during our thesis class. At that time, we thought of different ways to help people with walking disability, especially those who have lost the ability to use their arms. They are our main inspiration. We want to boost their morale by allowing them to go to places with the slightest help possible from other people,” said team member Darryll Jade Arias.
Other members of the team that worked on the wheelchair included Francis Mark Luna, Aljon Santillan, Lloyd Edwinson Arellano and Jonathan Temeña.
The voice-activated wheelchair, with its unique safety measure features, now joins the long list of innovative designs from Mapúa.
“We are proud to introduce this project as a means of improving the existing wheelchair designs. With these new features installed, we offer them (the users) easier control and more security. The added elevation function of the wheelchair makes it more mobile and dependable. As of now, this project would be very helpful but still not perfect. We are subjecting this design to further improvement,” the group said.
The group’s prototype can easily be maneuvered through the use of a voice-activated wheelchair which has a microcontroller that accepts and carries out commands.
But in addition to the microcontroller, the wheelchair has front and back infrared (IR) sensors that can detect objects.
With the IR sensors, the wheelchair automatically stops, and three pairs of LED lights at the back will light up.
Another pair of sensors underneath the wheelchair will make it stop if they detect there is no more surface to move on to – to prevent the user from falling off the stairs.
On the other hand, the wheelchair can elevate to a height of eight inches at most, high enough to steer clear of sidewalk gutters.
It took the team nine months to complete the prototype, with the guidance of Engineer Ayra Panganiban, their thesis adviser and overall mentor; and design adviser Engr. Analyn Yumang.
The team also tested the prototype with priority on making the user “feel safe and secure anytime.”
Panganiban said they plan to enhance the prototype based on the recommendations of the panel members during the final design presentation.
Earlier, Panganiban had worked with another team of Mapua students who designed a dual-purpose device for the blind – the “Wearable Obstacle Detection System and Braille CellPhone for the Blind.”
The mobile phone for the blind won in the 8th Smart Wireless Engineering Education Program (SWEEP) Innovation and Excellence Awards.
“The design of innovative inventions is based on the outcomes-based education initiatives of Mapúa since it promotes lifelong learning activities. In line with this, the students are encouraged to create high-impact designs or researches,” she said.