ActivMedia Robotics to Develop Intelligent Wheelchair; Small Business Innovation Research Grant From the National Institutes of Health Jump Starts Phase One
4/2/2002


PETERBOROUGH, N.H., Apr 2, 2002 (BW HealthWire) -- ActivMedia Robotics, LLC, a global leader in the design and manufacture of intelligent mobile robots today announced its receipt of a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health. The six-month $100,000 grant allows ActivMedia Robotics to conduct feasibility studies for a high-performance Independence-Enhancing Wheelchair (IEW). The IEW will significantly increase the independence of many severely disabled, whose mental and/or physical disabilities make driving powered or manual wheelchairs difficult or impossible.

With a single click, voice command or blink of an eye, the IEW will help non-ambulatory persons with visual impairment, diminished upper-body mobility, spasticity/tremors, memory/attention deficits and other problems move easily, safely and reliably from place to place. Using the input device of their choice and best suited for their specific needs, IEW drivers will select a destination on a floor plan or from a menu and the wheelchair will take them to the destination; avoiding obstacles, stairways and other hazards along the way. IEW software developed by ActivMedia Robotics will also allow caregivers to label certain destinations for easy access or to make portions of a building off limits. Even drivers that cannot read could select an icon or word to cause their chair to travel to their dorm room or to class.

"We estimate there are over 17,000 institutions and over five million individuals in the US alone who could benefit from the IEW," said Jeanne Dietsch, CEO of ActivMedia Robotics. "Current state-of-the-art motorized wheelchairs require dexterity, vision, attention, spatial awareness and/or energy many people lack. For someone who's been dependent on others even to move, to take control and drive themselves places on their own is a tremendous ego-booster. In addition, studies show that caregiver turnover is highest among those who work with the neediest people. So the IEW should improve life for both the disabled and staff."

During the first phase of the project, ActivMedia Robotics researchers will demonstrate feasibility of the IEW. Phase One includes testing of a new sensor system that will sense both obstacles and cliffs or stairways. Additional funding from NIH of up to $750,000 may be granted to ActivMedia Robotics for optimizing, validating and field-testing the new IEW in Phase Two.

About ActivMedia Robotics, LLC

ActivMedia Robotics, LLC, is a global leader in the design and manufacture of intelligent mobile robots and robotics development platforms. Leading international organizations such as Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, Honda, Microsoft, NASA, Siemens, Sprint, US Army and the US Navy have chosen ActivMedia products. To learn more about the company and its technology, please visit www.activmedia.com. The R&D, production, development and business offices of ActivMedia Robotics, LLC are headquartered in Peterborough, NH; additional R&D takes place in the company's Menlo Park, CA office.


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