The Lingnan Entrepreneurship Initiative (LEI) of Lingnan University (LU) in Hong Kong has developed the CREW Wheelchair Control System which intelligently predicts a carer’s intentions so as to better control a wheelchair, improving the safety of both wheelchair users and carers. The research team recently won the Gold award at the international MUSE Design Awards, and has already filed patent applications in Hong Kong and Mainland for this ground-breaking system.
While electric wheelchairs have become increasingly popular in Hong Kong, it is hard for neuromuscular disorder patients and older adults with deteriorating hand functions to control them effectively. Many wheelchair users therefore rely heavily on caregivers’ support to move the wheelchairs manually.
The force-sensing-based CREW Wheelchair Control System, developed by the Lingnan University research team, can be plugged into the wheelchair push handles to detect and intelligently predict the magnitude and direction of force, both forward and backward, making them easier to push or stop. It is especially helpful on a slope, as the system provides additional power when moving up a ramp or down a hill with a regenerative braking system converting kinetic energy to recharge the batteries. The system can also automatically travel in a straight line, which helps carers and minimise the risk of injury.
“As many caregivers are themselves old, great physical demands are often made of them and so, with assistive technology, they too can benefit from the powered wheelchairs, navigating more safely and easily.” said Prof Albert Ko Wing-yin, Director of the LEI.
“The LEI is dedicated to solving humanitarian problems with innovative methods. Our mission is to transform innovative ideas into tools to improve human lives, and I am deeply encouraged by our research team winning the internationally acclaimed MUSE Design Awards. We will continue to create more humanitarian technology products for the betterment of humankind,” he said.