Intelligent Walkers for the Elderly: Performance and Safety Testing of VA-PAMAID Robotic WalkerBy Rentschler, Andrew J., MS; Cooper, Rory A., PhD; Blasch, Bruce, PhD; Boninger, Michael L., MD; Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, Vol. 40, No. 5, pp. 423-432
Publication Date: September/October 2003
Study evaluates the safety and performance of the Veterans Affairs Personal Adaptive Mobility Aid (VA-PAMAID), which was designed to provide physical support and navigational assistance to people with visual impairments. The device is built on the design of a basic walker. A computer controls the motors that guide the VA-PAMAID’s front wheels, while laser and ultrasonic sensors are mounted on the front and sides. The sensors help to identify obstacles and landmark features, such as junctions and corridors. The user controls the device through a set of spring-loaded handlebars equipped with an encoder that senses the direction in which the user wishes to travel. A second set of optical encoders is mounted to the rear wheels, and measures the total distance traveled by the device. The VA-PAMAID has three control modules: (1) manual, (2) automatic, and (3) park. In manual mode, the user has control of the walker. Information detected by the sensors is issued via voice messages, describing landmarks and obstacles. The user and the computer share control of the walker in automatic mode. The computers utilizes motors connected to the front wheels to steer the device away from obstacles. In park mode, the front wheels are oriented to prevent movement of the device. The authors contend that the VA-PAMAID has good range and adequate reaction time. Clinical trials were planned to compare the device to other low-tech adaptive mobility devices.
VA Rehabilitation Research & Development Service (Web Site: http://www.rehab.research.va.gov )