RoboDesk motorized wheelchair tray puts mobile devices front and center


August 16, 2013

The RoboDesk helps wheelchair users more easily access tablets and lightweight laptop computers

The RoboDesk helps wheelchair users more easily access tablets and lightweight laptop computers

Although some wheelchair users could conceivably make use of devices like the GoPad, a researcher at Purdue University has developed a motorized wheelchair tray that looks to be a better option for giving wheelchair users convenient access to mobile devices. Employing a motorized arm, the “RoboDesk” can deploy or retract a tablet or lightweight laptop computer as needed.

When not in use, the tray sits out of the way near the rear wheel, not adding any additional width to the chair. It also doesn’t affect the chair’s normal functions or impede the user’s ability to transfer in and out of the chair. Then, with the flick of a switch an arm swings out to position the tray in front of the wheelchair user’s lap. They can then manually adjust the tilt of the tray to suit their requirements, which also opens it up to more general use, such as a writing surface or meal tray.

The RoboDesk was developed by Brad Duerstock, an associate professor of engineering practice in Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering and School of Industrial Engineering, who hopes it will make it easier for wheelchair users to study so as to increase their employment opportunities.

"Only two percent of people working in the sciences age 35 or younger have a disability; however, people with disabilities represent 10.4 percent of the overall U.S. workforce," Duerstock says. "I believe we are losing a lot of talented people who could make a difference if they're given the tools and opportunities to succeed. I want to make it easier for them to actively participate in their educational endeavors."

With the goal of getting the RoboDesk licensed and manufactured in the next three years, Duerstock is currently working to make it compatible with various types of manual and electric wheelchairs.

The RoboDesk can be seen in action in the following video.

Source: Purdue University

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick
1 Comment

These devices have been around for at least a couple of decades- probably more.

Often they are used to hold Windows-based 'communicator' touchscreen devices (as used by Professor Stephen Hawking for example), with alternative means of selecting menu option (eg head control).

So nothing new, but I'm sure users will welcome a new market entrant, as every user has different needs and abilities that this model may address (or not).

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