The wheelchair is created by Intel's Internet of Things department. It is part of the company's "Connected Wheelchair Project" under the Intel Collaborators program. The project showed how standard "things" can evolve into data-driven, connected machines with the help of the Intel Galileo Development Kit and Intel Gateway Solutions for the IoT.
The announcement of the wheelchair at the Intel Developer Forum became even more significant when Dr. Stephen Hawking made a surprise appearance and joined in the discussion using a video. Hawking discussed how technology for the disabled is considered as a proving ground for tomorrow's technology. At that point, Hawking asked developers to come up with connected wheelchairs that would allow differently-abled people like himself to enhance the way they communicate with the rest of the world.
In the video, Hawking was seen as using a connected wheelchair that runs on Intel's technology. The scientist suffers from a motor neurone disease associated with ALS which caused him to be totally paralyzed. He has been on a wheelchair for more than 30 years. This explains why a connected wheelchair that utilizes technology to improve the lives of those afflicted with disabilities is a project that he is very fond of.
"Medicine can't cure me, so I rely on technology," said Hawking. "It lets me interface with the world. It propels me. It's how I'm speaking to you now."
According to Intel, the wheelchair proof of concept "enables the collection of biometrical information from the user, as well as mechanical information from the machine, that can then be analyzed. The team also built an application that allows wheelchair users to map and rate the accessibility of locations, further enhancing the user experience."
The unique device from Intel is designed to measure the user's health which includes his heart rate, body temperature and blood pressure. It also enables them to get firsthand information on the place's accessibility. The biometric info is displayed on a screen for health tracking purposes between the user and his caretaker. Apart from assessing the person's health in the chair, the technology is also designed to measure the status of the wheelchair itself.
Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also focused on the relevance of the project but expressed at the same time that it may not end up as a profitable venture. "We're probably not going to sell a billion of them but it's the right thing to do," said Krzanich.
Hawking has worked with the engineers at Intel for over a decade. His life story will be revealed in the upcoming biopic dubbed as "The Theory of Everything."