What if a wheelchair could sense collisions and dangerous drop offs before its user knew there were there? The world is about to find out.
New to the marketplace is Nashville, Tenn-based LUCI, whose premiere product, also named LUCI, is a hardware and software platform that uses sensor-fusion technologies to allow a power wheelchair to “see” its environment.
Once mounted onto a power wheelchair between the power base and the seat, LUCI aims to help users avoid collisions and dangerous drop-offs while maintaining personalized driving control. Through cloud-based capabilities, LUCI can also monitor and alert users and caregivers of low battery, possible tipping scenarios, and other important updates regarding the chair and the user.
“Wheelchair users were left behind when it comes to most innovative technology,” says Barry Dean, CEO and Founder of LUCI. Dean is also a Grammy-nominated songwriter, and his daughter Katherine, 19, has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair her whole life.
“We realized no one else was working on this problem in a meaningful way, so my brother Jered [Dean, CTO of LUCI] and I set out to create a solution for Katherine,” he says, in a media release.
“What started as a labor of love among family members has ultimately created a safer, more stable way for people with disabilities to navigate their world and stay connected to loved ones. Today, we’re excited to launch LUCI and continue collaborating with researchers, universities and other companies using our open platform to move the industry forward together,” he adds.
The LUCI team spent the past two and half years collaborating with clinical professionals and logging over 25,000 hours of user testing to develop an invention to help people with physical disabilities drive safely, precisely and independently. LUCI’s R&D efforts have already resulted in a total of 16 patents (eight pending).
“When we started tinkering with my niece Katherine’s chair, we had no idea where this journey would lead,” says Jered Dean, CTO, who has spent 2 decades in design and systems engineering, most recently serving as director of the Colorado School of Mines’s Capstone Design@Mines program.
“From developing advancements in millimeter-wave radar technology to collaborating with engineering leaders from Intel RealSense Technology Group to maximize the application of some of the world’s smartest cameras, I’m incredibly proud of the unprecedented work our team has accomplished to solve the challenges our customers face,” he continues, in the release.
“LUCI leverages Intel RealSense to map the world in a low-power, cost-effective way to make drop-off protection and collision avoidance possible, and we’re excited to be a part of this inspirational effort to deliver innovation that improves lives,” says Joel Hagberg, head of product management and marketing, Intel RealSense Group
LUCI’s technology combines stereovision, infrared, ultrasonic and radar sensors to offer users these critical features, per the release:
- Collision avoidance: LUCI is designed to prevent wheelchair users from running into objects (walls, people, pets, furniture, etc) as they navigate their daily lives. It does this by smoothly helping to navigate the chair in coordination with user steering inputs based on obstacle detection in the driver’s surroundings.
- Drop-off protection: It doesn’t take a large drop-off to tip a wheelchair (less than 3 inches in some cases). LUCI helps users avoid tipping by recognizing steps or drop-offs and smoothly helping the chair continue on a safer path.
- Anti-tipping alert system: LUCI monitors the steepness of a ramp or the ground users are driving on and provides an audible alert if it becomes a tipping danger. In the event that a chair tips over, LUCI sounds an alarm and can be configured to quickly alert other individuals, such as a caregiver or loved one, of the exact location of the rider and the tipped chair.
- Cloud-based communications and alerts: The MyLUCI portal allows users to view their data and share it with loved ones or clinicians. LUCI can be set up to alert others of specific events, such as the user’s location if their battery gets dangerously low. LUCI also now works with Hey Google and Amazon Alexa so users can interact with MyLUCI using their voice. MyLUCI portal is available as a mobile app for both iOS and Android phones, as well as for desktop with the Web Portal.
- Secure health monitoring: LUCI users can choose to share their heart rate data with their team using either Google Fit or Apple HealthKit from day one.