G. Wasson, J. Gunderson, S. Graves, and R. Felder, University of Virginia, USA
This paper presents preliminary work on the design of control systems for pedestrian mobility aids for the elderly. The elderly are often restricted in their mobility and must rely on canes, walkers and wheelchairs for locomotion. Restrictions in mobility lead to a loss of independence and autonomy, as well as a decrease in muscular strength. This paper focuses on design of intelligent wheeled walkers. By allowing the user varying degrees of control, from complete to collaborative, these walkers afford the user with the feeling of control, while helping to increase the ease and safety of their daily travels. The control systems of these walkers differ from those of other mobility aids and mobile robots because they must both assist in mobility and provide balance and support. These functions must be performed in a tight loop with a human whose input may be difficult to predict.