Tech Challenge Delivers New Freedom for Wheelchair Users

News / Davina Montgomery / April 21, 2023

Deakin University’s Applied AI Institute (A2I2) worked with Australian med-tech pioneers, Control Bionics, in developing the world’s first autonomous driving wheelchair module for the home.

Key points:

  • The DROVE module was launched at the Deakin Digital Futures Hub in Burwood
  • The module can be added to a user’s electric wheelchair
  • The system can guide a wheelchair within a home environment to any number of locations within centimeters to give precise location accuracy and safe, controlled movement every time

When the doorbell would ring at Brodie Shaw’s home, she would have to wait in her chair wherever she was in the house for someone to tell her who was there. Now, with the launch of world’s first autonomous driving wheelchair module for the home, Brodie can travel up the hall and see who is there for herself.

It is a small freedom, but the smile on her face tells us everything we need to know about the difference autonomy can make for wheelchair users like Brodie in their homes.

The word Brodie used to describe the feeling of her chair navigating around her home without another person controlling it was ‘calm’.

Image supplied by Control Bionics

The Research Project Lead, Dr Srikanth Thudumu, said the challenge was to overcome the limitations of traditional joystick-controlled models of electric wheelchairs, offering a more user-friendly and autonomous navigation experience.

The DROVE technology integrates with Control Bionics’ NeuroNode, also developed with A2I2, to give those living with restricted movement like Brodie, with cerebral palsy, or motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries independence, security and control.

“At A2I2, we developed a state-of-the-art digital twin with a user interface that displays a virtual representation of a user’s home. This interface has enabled users to select a destination, while our advanced control system ensures safe navigation within the home environment. Additionally, we have incorporated an override mechanism that allows users to regain manual control at any time,” Dr Thudumu said.

The development of the world-first technology behind the DROVE module was supported by an Australian Government Innovation Connections grant.

Read the Media Release here

Watch DROVE in action

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