Problem Free Requirements
Robert Stewart, Anthony Consiglio, Stephen Christner, Timothy Eaton
REMOTE CONTROL WHEELCHAIR
Solutions for the Mobility Impaired
Table of Contents
1 Problem Statement ........................................................................................................... 2
2 History and Research ....................................................................................................... 3
3 User's Requirements ........................................................................................................ 5
4 Customer's Requirements .............................................................................................. 5
5 System Requirements ...................................................................................................... 6
6 Testing................................................................................................................................... 7
1 Problem Statement
Quadriplegics, suffer the loss of use and sensation in their limbs due to brain or spinal cord
damage. Due to this severe loss of mobility and independence, depression is not uncommon in
patients. While power wheelchairs exist to aid in mobility, many patients aren’t capable of
managing the controls on their own, leading to the need for another person’s direct assistance in
moving from location to location in a regular wheelchair. The American Spinal Injury
Association (ASIA) has classified 5 levels of spinal injury, with class A being total loss of motor
and sensory function in the torso and limbs, to class E with normal motor and sensory function.
Children suffering from this malady would find themselves unable to assimilate into a classroom
setting without the aid of another. They might need to move from area to area of the classroom
for any reason: turning in homework, adjusting positions to view a video better, etc. Without the
ability to move his/her own wheelchair, the child would be dependent on teachers or other
caregivers to move accordingly. This same issue would remain with the child throughout
schooling. Our system would allow the teacher to more efficiently relocate the student, or allow
parents to assist their children without actually being at their backs.
As they get older, quadriplegics will be dependent on others to be moved around the house and
from place to place. Professional Caregivers are expensive and not necessarily readily available
at any hour, which means the patient’s family and friends would need to be prepared to assist.
Nursing homes or hospitals caring for these patients would need staffing to see to them all
properly. If they can’t meet the quota, the patient’s quality of life will decrease significantly,
which could further increase the sense of lost independence and enable depression more readily.
Using the system we design, medical institutions would be able to move and manage more
patients with less staffing, allowing more care to be given to each patient. Patients at home
would have systems that would allow more ease of assistance to friends and family; managing a
control pad or keyboard is much less physically taxing than handling a wheelchair. The system
will add a new degree of mobility as he would merely need to speak his intention of where to be
moved, and the caregiver will hear him through the webcam attachment to the chair. By pressing
a few buttons, the patient’s sense of burden can be greatly reduced, and sense of independence
one step closer to being fully restored.
2 History and Research
There is a direct correlation between the severity of a handicap a person can develop and
the loss of the independence of that person. Severely handicapped persons can become so
dependent on the help of others that they become depressed and alienated. With the
advent of modern electronics, the technology became available to give severely
handicapped individuals more independence.
The first electric wheelchairs were developed by George Klein in World War 2 to help the
soldiers wounded on the battlefield move and allow the medical personnel to focus on
other patients rather than accompany those in wheelchairs. However, not everyone was
able to use this type of wheelchair. Certain types of severely handicapped people could not
effectively pilot their chair, even with a basic joystick. These people were little better off
than the handicapped people before World War II. Even if they could operate the chair on
their own, they required an assistant to follow them in case they ran into trouble.
As technology has advanced further, people with handicaps have found a new level of
independence. With the ability to condense more computing power into smaller devices, a
wheelchair can now host a machine with massive capabilities. Wheelchairs could have
sensors like the LIDAR enabled computers to watch for obstacles and help the user to avoid
them. With networking and internet connections, a care worker or parent could keep an
eye on the handicapped individual, watching for any trouble, and ready to jump in and help
should the need arise.
In 2004, students at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario developed a remote control
system for electric wheelchairs. They developed it into the form of a kit which could be
added onto a normal electric wheelchair. This kit, called NEPWAK, or Network Enabled
Powered Wheelchair Adapter Kit, allowed anyone to pilot the wheelchair remotely over the
internet. A video feed was sent to the remote user from the chair, and the remote user
could communicate with the person in the wheelchair, and monitor their medical status.
However, with this technology the wheelchair was not really safeguarded from collisions or
other danger. If the remote user didn’t notice the danger over the video feed, the
wheelchair would not avoid it. This same problem applied when the handicapped person
was piloting the wheelchair. In later years, new solutions were attempted, trying different
approaches to solve the problem. Toyota, as well as Researchers at the University of South
Florida, both created systems that relied on interpreting the brain waves of the user.
People could use brain waves to control a virtual joystick or even a robotic arm.
Demonstrations of these wheelchairs show people able to accurately operate the chair
without having to move a muscle. However, criticisms of these systems included people
complaining about the mental strain using a system like this for long periods of time
created. Having to maintain concentration and manipulate your own brainwaves to
produce a desired result can be tiring.
To combat this problem, a research team at the University of Zaragoza created a prototype
of a different type of mind actuated wheelchair in May of 2008. Rather than having a mind
controlled joystick, the user would be presented with an image of the surrounding area,
and would think about their desired destination. The computer in the wheelchair, coupled
with a laser range sensor, took care of the navigation for the user, reducing brain strain.
One problem that using a brain wave based system using modern technology is cost. Brain
wave systems are somewhat unsightly, and are obscenely expensive.
Rather than using brain waves as input, researchers at the Michigan Institute of Technology
created a wheelchair that was able to interpret speech commands. Their wheelchair also
implemented a natural learning system to teach the computer where locations were. When
first entering a new building, a person would push the chair around, stopping at certain
locations, and telling the system what the name of the location was. The advantage of this
system is that it does not require a map or floor plan to be supplied. The system uses a GPS
to navigate outdoors, and nearby Wi-Fi signals to determine location indoors. It also has
the LIDAR sensor to watch for obstacles. People can simply tell the system where they
would like to go, and don’t have to worry about trying to steer with a joystick, or hold their
concentration on steering with brainwaves. The system does require building-wide Wi-Fi
coverage, which does add to the cost of the setup and doesn’t allow the system to navigate
in new buildings.
Currently, there are no companies producing remotely operated wheelchairs at a
distribution level. The closest that we have found is John Williamson, a man who designs
and builds wheelchairs which can be operated by a standard remote control. These are
manufactured on a low scale and are rather expensive. The major drawback with this is
that the operator must be in close proximity to the wheelchair as radio waves do not carry
a signal as far as the Wi-Fi networks, as well as a lack of video feed.
3 User’s Requirements
The user’s wheelchair will be equipped with a mounted webcam to allow for
communication between he and his caregiver. By speaking out loud where he would like to
go, the controller would be able to see where to move him through the camera, and get him
where he needs to be. Without physically being together, the caregiver and can provide
assistance that will allow the patient to become more mobile.
Mounted speakers to the onboard computer and a mic at the controller’s computer would
allow for full conversation between the two.
Some sort of network link will need to be maintained in order for proper function calls to
VB6 will also need to be installed to allow functioning of the code.
Currently, modifications to the motorized chair would be needed to allow proper control of
4 Customer’s Requirements
The customer purchasing the software will need to have a computer to run it well enough
to handle the large amounts of data transfer that would be necessary to run this system
effectively. A strong network link between the customer’s computer and user’s chair’s
computer would be crucial to allow for proper function calls and efficient running of the
A compatible input device would also be needed to manage controls of the wheelchair.
5 System Requirements
The System will initialize to a state with pre-loaded settings. These settings include the
acceleration of the wheelchair, speed of the wheelchair and the distance from the wall that
the wheelchair can be without automatically stopping. These settings will be set based
upon decisions made during the testing phase. Each of these settings will be configurable
for the greatest ease of use for the customer.
The system will allow for full control of the wheelchair via a remote connection. Mounted
on the wheelchair will be a video camera/webcam to transmit information about the
environment to the person controlling it (the “user”). The webcam will be able to pivot
about itself to give a wide viewing area for the user. An additional operating mode will
enable the camera to focus on an object and control the wheelchair so that it automatically
follows that object. This will enable a remote-free control of the wheelchair.
The wheelchair will automatically prevent bumping into walls via the use of proximity
sensors mounted on the frame. These will stop or redirect the wheelchair if the path takes
the system too close to a wall, or any major physical obstruction.
Also mounted on the wheelchair will be a failsafe kill switch that the person in the
wheelchair will have control of. This will stop all remote control of the wheelchair at the
discretion of the wheelchair bound user. Additionally there will be a master control for the
wheelchair installed on the wheelchair, in the event that the connection controlling the
wheelchair becomes interrupted.
The remote connection will be built using a secure wireless network. It can be a local
wireless network comprised of access points, or a wide-area network (WAN/Internet) over
which the wheelchair can be controlled from a much greater distance. The local wireless
network would be most useful if the system is to be used in a closed environment such as a
nursing home or a school. The internet-based implementation can be made from a wireless
internet card (likely from a nation-wide Internet Service Provider, such as Verizon) and
will be useful for situations where networks are not set up in existing locations, or if there
needs to be greater flexibility in the range of use.
To control the wheelchair, the user will be able to view the environment from the
perspective of the mounted camera, and will use a joystick to control both the camera and
movement of the wheelchair. In additional operating modes, there will be the option to
have a monitor screen on the wheelchair with a speaker so that there can be
communication between the person in the wheelchair and the user of the system.
Testing on this system will be extensive. All components of the system will be put through a
stress-test so that during full operating mode there are no unforeseen interruptions in the
use of the system.
The first component of the system that will be tested is the basic control of the motors on
the wheelchair. The control of the motors will need to be smooth so as to create a pleasant
experience for the person in the wheelchair. The testing for controlling the motors will be
in both the code used to implement movement, as well as physical testing on the
wheelchair using a hardwired control after the code has been written. The proximity
sensors will then be tested to ensure that the path of the wheelchair is not interrupted by
physical obstructions and that the hardware used causes no unwanted operation. This
testing will also be code-based as well as physical.
The next component of the system that will be tested will be the network-based
components. Ensuring that a constant live video feed is both sent and received is vital to
the operation of the wheelchair. The network connection will be tested to make sure that
the network is in range, and if for any reason the connection is interrupted, that situation is
addressed by appropriate measures.
The mounted camera’s operation will also be tested so that control of the motor that aims
the camera is consistent, as well as the ability to focus on and follow a moving object,
controlling the wheelchair the same as if it were being controlled by the user.
The joystick that is used for the system will also be tested to ensure the most comfortable
operation of the system by the user is implemented. However, as a standard application
programming interface (API) will be implemented, this control may be able to have
alternative methods of implementation (use of keyboard, different joystick, etc.).
Network security will be the last issue addressed. In order to prevent the unauthorized
operation of the system, the credential system that is implemented will be addressed and
tested to see if there are any vulnerabilities. These, if any exist, will be closed so that no one
but the intended user of the system has access to the video feed or the control of the
A successful implementation of the system will be one where all of the components
function fully in conjunction with each other, with a smooth live video feed to the remote
user and operation of the wheelchair with no interruptions in the network connectivity and
the remote-free functionality functions fully, as well. Additionally, all safety measures
implemented (proximity sensors, kill switch, and on-board master control) must function
exactly as planned and tested to consider a testing session a success.