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Driving a Ballbot Wheelchair with Hands-Free Torso Control
  • +9
  • Seung Yun Song,
  • Nadja Marin,
  • Chenzhang Xiao,
  • Mahshid Mansouri,
  • Joao Ramos,
  • Yu Chen,
  • Adam W. Bleakney,
  • Deana McDonagh,
  • William R. Norris,
  • Jeannette R. Elliott,
  • Patricia B. Malik,
  • Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
Seung Yun Song

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Nadja Marin
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Chenzhang Xiao
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Mahshid Mansouri
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Joao Ramos
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Adam W. Bleakney
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Deana McDonagh
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William R. Norris
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Jeannette R. Elliott
Patricia B. Malik
Elizabeth T. Hsiao-Wecksler
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A novel wheelchair called PURE (Personalized Unique Rolling Experience) that uses hands-free (HF) torso lean-to-steer control has been developed for manual wheelchair users (mWCUs). PURE addresses limitations of current wheelchairs, such as the inability to use both hands for life experiences instead of propulsion. PURE uses a ball-based robot drivetrain to offer a compact, self-balancing, omnidirectional mobile device. A custom sensor system converts rider torso motions into direction and speed commands to control PURE, which is especially useful if a rider has minimal torso range of motion. We explored whether PURE’s HF control performed as well as a traditional joystick (JS) human-robot interface and mWCUs, performed as well as able-bodied users (ABUs). 10 mWCUs and 10 ABUs were trained and tested to drive PURE through courses replicating indoor settings. Each participant adjusted ride sensitivity settings for both HF and JS control. Repeated-measures MANOVA tests suggested that the number of collisions, completion time, NASA TLX scores except physical demand, and index of performances were similar for HF and JS control and between mWCUs and ABUs for all sections. This suggests that PURE is effective for controlling this new omnidirectional wheelchair by only using torso motion thus leaving both hands to be used for other tasks during propulsion.
Link for supplementary material (appendix, short descriptive video): 
21 Feb 2024Submitted to TechRxiv
22 Feb 2024Published in TechRxiv