In a world of Internet of Things connected devices and the kinds of smart sensors that make self-driving cars possible, there’s no shortage of technology that could be harnessed to make wheelchairs better and safer.
A shocking number of wheelchair users — around 87% — have reported experiencing at least one tip or fall in the past three years. In 2010, the last year the data was available, wheelchair accidents were the cause of upward of 175,000 ER visits, with 30,000 of these major enough that the patient had to be admitted to the hospital. In other words, there’s a big problem that can affect wheelchair users — and it’s one that tech could be able to help solve. That’s where Luci comes into play.
Luci, shown off as part of this week’s CES, is a first-of-its-kind software and hardware platform that can be mounted onto both new and existing power wheelchairs to help them make sense of their environments. This enables the augmented wheelchairs to “see” their surroundings, avoid collisions, prevent dangerous curb drop-offs, and more.
The tech driving this is a combination of stereo computer vision, infrared, ultrasonic, and radar. It means that wheelchair users can operate their chairs as normal, but safe in the knowledge that they will be automatically alerted — and stopping countermeasures deployed — in the event that they may be on course to have an accident. Should a chair tip over, Luci will additionally sound an alarm to attract help, and can also be configured to send automatic alerts to trusted individuals.
“Technology has disrupted the way we take taxis, use phones, shop, and communicate with friends, yet it hasn’t much touched the world for people in wheelchairs,” Barry Dean, CEO of Luci, told Digital Trends. “Until Luci, no smart technology capabilities have been available to power wheelchairs — despite power wheelchairs costing as much as a car, upwards of $60,000. We hope this is just the start in improving the lives of wheelchair users and their families and caregivers.”
Luci is currently available nationwide through complex rehabilitation equipment suppliers, priced at $8,445. It may also be eligible for reimbursement through certain healthcare providers and insurance codes with letters of medical necessity.