The concept of a “smart” mobility device that can detect obstacles and potentially avoid colliding with them isn’t new. But in reality, many different technologies had to come together to make such a smart mobility device possible.
Introducing LUCI, described in a June 18 news announcement as “a first-of-its-kind hardware and software platform that uses sensor-fusion technologies to allow a power wheelchair to ‘see’ its environment, giving riders unprecedented stability, security and cloud connectivity.”
Barry Dean, LUCI’s CEO and founder, has a daughter, Katherine, 19, who has cerebral palsy and has used a wheelchair throughout her life.
“Wheelchair users were left behind when it comes to most innovative technology,” Dean said at LUCI’s launch. “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. 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.”
What LUCI Can Do
The LUCI device mounts between the power base and the seat of a power wheelchair.
LUCI’s abilities include collision avoidance (by coordinating its user’s steering with its own navigation abilities) and drop-off protection (by recognizing steps and drop-offs, thereby avoiding tipping accidents).
LUCI provides an audible alert upon noticing tipping dangers, such as a ramp that’s too steep.
Cloud-based communications, used with the MyLUCI portal, enables power chair users to view their data and share it with family members, caregivers and clinicians.
LUCI can also alert others if the chair’s battery is running low, or if the chair tips over. In that case, LUCI can also provide the location of the tipped-over chair and its user.
Compatibility with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa enables power chair users to communicate with MyLUCI via voice instructions. In a LUCI demonstration video, a consumer who’s away from her power chair asks Alexa to confirm with MyLUCI that the power chair is charging. Alexa responds, “The battery is approximately 80 percent charged.”
LUCI uses a combination of stereovision, infrared, ultrasonic and radar sensors to accomplish those functions, as well as secure health monitoring. The LUCI system uses Intel RealSense technology “to perceive the world in 3D,” said Intel RealSense Group’s Joel Hagberg, head of product management and marketing. “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.”
LUCI is currently available for purchase in the United States. The company is based in Nashville, Tenn., with R&D headquarters in Denver.