Sixteen organisations from the UK and France, including several NHS Trusts, are coming together to launch a project that will help tackle mobility problems faced by elderly and disabled people, by developing a new smart electronic powered wheelchair and virtual reality wheelchair simulator.
The project is called ADAPT (Assistive Devices for Empowering Disabled People Through Robotic Technologies).
ADAPT will enhance standard electronic powered wheelchairs, which are currently used by health services in the UK and France, by adding driving assistance technologies such as obstacle avoidance, route selection and autonomous driving.
The smart electronic powered wheelchair will also report on the user’s health by sending real-time information via the internet, enabling healthcare professionals to monitor any changes in the user’s health.
ADAPT will also produce an electronic powered wheelchair simulator based on virtual reality for new users, giving them the opportunity to practice before using the new smart wheelchairs. Additional training on the new systems will also be provided for healthcare professionals to address a current gap in healthcare education and better understand and manage user rehabilitation.
In total the project could reach up to 300,000 electric wheelchair users in the Channel area and help train more than 15,000 healthcare professionals.
The project will also have an additional economic benefit on the cross-border Channel area with around 60 companies benefiting from the manufacturing of components for both the smart wheelchair and the simulator.
Commenting on the project’s approval Nicolas Ragot, from the lead partner ESIGELEC said: “The project is an important response to the socio-economic issues faced by elderly and disabled people. Sixteen partners with a range of different skills have come together around a three pronged approach of research, training and transfer of technology.
"ADAPT will develop innovative assistive technologies by integrating new robot technology into an electronic powered wheelchair. Training modules targeted at healthcare professionals will also be created.
"Finally, the project will share these technologies with businesses, helping to create a leverage effect on the economic development of this border region."