Electric Wheelchair Makes A Great Base For A Big Robot

Wiring into the joystick is a quick and easy way to hack in custom control to a wheelchair.

Building robots can be fun, and remains a popular pastime among many in the hacker and maker set. However the hardware side of things can be daunting. This is particularly the case for those attempting to build something on a larger scale. A great shortcut is to start with a robust mechanical platform from the outset – and using an electric wheelchair is a great way to do so.

[Nikita] started this project way back in 2009, after finding a broken electric wheelchair at a flea market. It was no longer in fit condition for use as a wheelchair, so [Nikita] was able to score it for the low price of just $50. That’s a great price for a package which includes a robust chassis, wheels, motors and the required controllers to drive it all. With the platform in hand, it was time to get hacking.

Thus far, [Nikita] has gone so far as to strip the wheelchair of all extraneous parts, leaving it as a motorized carriage. Radio control has been implemented with the help of an Arduino, and a couple of “eyes” have been added to give it a little personality. It can also still be driven with the original joystick, which has been relocated on the chassis. Future plans involve adding a level of autonomy to allow the ‘bot to navigate waypoints and recognise faces, both tasks which should be significantly easier with 2019 technology. We’re eager to see where it goes next; we’ve seen great applications of wheelchair hardware before, after all. Video after the break.

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StrollerController Free Parents From Menial Labor

Raising young children is hard work, and parents need all the help they can get. There’s a whole industry catering to parents who are willing to pay to make their lives a little easier. Then, we have hacker minded parents like [Sam Pearce] who build his own solutions like joystick-controlled motorized strollers. His kids have fun taking their first steps into independent autonomy, dad has freed up his hands from pushing strollers, and everyone wins!

We were impressed when we saw [Sam] and his StrollerController zipping along at Maker Faire Bay Area 2019. Normally the only way young children get to control their own vehicle is in a field of bumper cars or a constrained track like Autopia. These lucky kids can drive around without being constrained by pen or track. This will give them a great early start on their driver’s license test, assuming autonomous vehicles haven’t taken over by the time they grow up.

The StrollerController we saw is a two part affair, each capable of independent operation:

StrollerController v1 is a stroller enhanced with motor gearbox from cordless drills driving rear wheels. Its top speed can be constrained by a limiter depending on the child pilot’s driving proficiency. It also has a bright red emergency stop button on top, plus a remote controlled kill switch held by a supervising adult.

StrollerController v2 is a pusher module equipped with much faster wheelchair motors under an grownup-sized standing platform. Welded to the front is a pair of brackets to dock with either a regular non-motorized stroller or StrollerController v1. The linked system delivers expedient travel for both parent and child.

For such a display of inventive ingenuity and resourcefulness, this project won a well-deserved Editor’s Choice ribbon from Maker Faire. We hope such recognition and enthusiasm from other Maker Faire attendees helped motivate [Sam] as he continues to improve StrollerController.

A Better Way To Measure Your Impact On The World

Close your eyes and think of an electric wheelchair. What do you see? Is it sleek, futuristic, and elegant… worthy of the moniker: iChair? No, no it is not. It’s a boxy tank-like thing with grey knobbed wheels that is powered with lead-acid batteries. Why is that?

Obviously there are alternatives. Just yesterday I came across UPnRIDE (that name is sore on the eyes but speak it aloud and you’ll get it). It’s an electric wheelchair that converts into a standing position. And it looks comparatively sleek and modern. And it’s not the first time I’ve seen the idea before. One of my favorite articles over the years is still our coverage of Tek RMD, a similar standing robotic wheelchair design. So why is it I don’t see these in the wild? Why is it I only remember seeing the concept twice in four years?

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