Led by Prof Franz Konstantin ‘Tino’ Fuss and co-funded by Swinburne University (under the seed funding scheme) and Scope Australia, our Smart Products Engineering Team is developing the foundations of a smart wheelchair product that will be the first of its kind in the market.  

There are approximately 180,000 wheelchair users in Australia, but this figure has been estimated to be growing at a rate of 4-7% per year.  

Wheelchair with sensor.
Current wheelchair designs come with negative implications; they are: 
  • heavy 
  • ill-designed 
  • unsightly 
  • difficult to adjust 
  • not immediately reusable due to prior customisation 
  • expensive 
  • lacking in innovative structural design and seating systems 
  • affected by a lengthy manufacturing process.  

Data on wheelchair usage is not currently available, even though such data is essential for monitoring performance, diagnostic purposes, better accessibility and service delivery, and improvement of wheelchair adjustment and design.  

Our Wheelchair of the Future project aims to overcome these implications. The project is inherently innovative as it develops the foundation of a product that does not exist so far in terms of multiple aspects: an advanced and superior wheelchair that is innovative in terms of: 

  • providing continuous data 
  • being comparatively affordable 
  • modular 
  • reusable 
  • having an improved seating and re-positioning system 
  • offering an optimized seating and positioning process.  
Speed profile of a non wheelchair user riding a wheelchair in the urban jungle of Hawthorn.

The affordable instrumentation system providing data is a small laboratory and diagnostics system in itself, and the data will inform of changes to the user’s posture via factors including: 

  • the user’s performance 
  • urban mobility and accessibility 
  • efficiency of the automated positioning system 
  • efficiency of the seat material in terms of even pressure distribution and prevention of pressure sores. 

This data will allow for wheelchair component redesign, if such a need is indicated.  

The project is partnered with Scope Australia, who support people with physical, intellectual and multiple disabilities and developmental delays to achieve their goals. They are a major provider of high-quality services for people with disabilities. 

Project timeframe 

2020 – continuing  

Research team and partners

See more projects from the Smart Products Engineering program

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We always welcome new partners. If you are interested in transforming ideas into commercially competitive outcomes, need the support of our research or have any other queries, contact us on +61 3 9214 6072 or email cdiadmin@swinburne.edu.au.

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