The Virtual Seating Coach

People with both upper and lower extremity impairment are often provided electric powered wheelchairs with powered seat functions (PSF), especially if they cannot independently reposition themselves. A PSF (elevation, tilt, recline) is used to increase independent function, to reduce risk of pressure ulcers, to manage pain, and to reduce swelling. Unfortunately, many individuals do not use them properly. For example, they don't tilt far enough or long enough or they don't use the controls in the proper sequence.

Therefore, we invented an instrumentation package integrated with a small handheld computer mounted to the user's chair. We created software for this system that incorporates the guidance of clinicians combined with machine learning and expert system software to provide customized coaching. For example, if someone starts up a ramp with the seat tilted back too far to be safe, a video and sound alert appears on the screen and instructs the user in how to complete this task safely, and then the screen changes to provide a real-time indicator of where the seat should be positioned. This should result in fewer injuries and secondary conditions.

The challenges have been designing a low-power, low-profile system that has sufficient computing power to be useful. Further, developing the expert system, clinician/user-friendly software, and reminder profiles is very complex.

Virtual Wheelchair Coaches Project

Virtual Seating Coach