Head controlling a wheelchair – The #GyroSet

A response to a question about power wheelchair control using the head.

I’ve got a permobil M400 (mid- wheel drive), and a Permobil head array control.

My main qualm with head arrays is that it’s discreet/switch–based rather than continuous/proportional control. This results in relatively jerky steering and a less-than-intuitive driving experience.

The high-end power wheelchair market has opened up a lot over the last 5 years, companies like quantum, etac and permobil are no longer the only suppliers. I’ve noticed that my wheelchair service is now supplying a pretty decent power chair for people that want it and I know there are some German and Swiss companies looking to get in to the UK market with really decent products.

The thing that really excites me is the GyroSet and I just got my hands on one (metaphorically) to test which I’m using to control the laptop mouse pointer, it is manufactured and sold by Now technologies: http://nowtech.hu/

They now have production wheelchair controls which allows you to control the chair just from slight head movements, check out some of the demo videos on the website.

I really like them, they seems to have dedicated a lot of their time in making something that “just works” and can be configured to be controlled by the slightest of movement (head or fingers, with different devices). They have had to overcome some challenges getting into the UK market but have proven themselves to be very resourceful, developing interfaces to common wheelchair control systems.

If I was buying a chair now I would seriously consider getting one with a proportional control system for better driving experience, if you are a new wheelchair user, it’s probably the thing that will most affect your standard of living going forward. As I said I’m using one of the headsets for mouse control and its astounding. Looking forward to getting one installed to control the chair.

Here is a short list of benefits compared to what I’ve tried previously (EyeGaze/head pointer/camera mouse/integramouse):

– zero config, “just works”

– improved accuracy

– flexibility and portability, can drive around my chair, come back to the computer and carry on, can use at home work and in the car with no reconfiguration

– works outside, unlike infrared dependent solutions, is not affected by ambient light sources (e.g. sun)

Although it sounds a bit like a pitch, I’m not affiliated with the company I’m just genuinely excited by finding a functional and practical solution for proportional wheelchair control after 8 years.

As far as I know it’s a small team but the main contact is Mark: Mark Istvan mark@nowtech.hu. He is a lovely bloke who will come and give demos on request, they have chairs for testing in Stoke Mandeville. I think Ruth Peachment is in charge of them.

 

Getting back to wheelchairs, warranty is important, if I was buying again now I think I’d about going with a wheelchair service chair just because warranty is covered by them. Running out of warranty on a private purchase can get expensive.

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Tom

 

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