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NCKU unveils i-Transport for the disabled

Tainan, Taiwan, Dec. 19, 2012

A new generation of intelligent robot with functions of mobility, lifting, and standing for the disabled called “i-Transport,” which can be adjusted to the user’s height and position while taking stuff or talking to others, has been developed by a National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) research team.

The team was led by Fong-Chin Su and Tain-Song Chen, professors from the NCKU Department of BioMedical Engineering (BME).

This novel smart light-weight robot has aroused great attention and been regarded as a great impact on the biomedical innovation when it was displayed at the recent forum hosted by the Ministry of Education (MOE), Taiwan.

“The invention is definitely a boon for the physically challenged people,” said a student who tried out the equipment Dec. 19 at BME, adding that the weight of the device has become much lighter with greater mobility to help with the daily life of the disabled.

Su pointed out that i-Transport was designed with an embedded health monitoring system for tracking blood pressure and breathing conditions, providing the disabled with the basic pride of standing and moving.

I-Transport is a multi-functional carrier which can help adjust the action of lifting, shifting, standing, moving while also serving as a physiological monitor, thus assisting the disabled to move and stand in order to undertake daily chores, as well as fulfill their desire to move around and meet their demand for independence, added Su.

Chen explained that i-Transport uses Altera FPGA, a newly developed intelligent control chip which has the Nios II embedded multi-core processor for developing software and hardware design of the cart’s control systems.

He said, the control system includes the robotic arm, the electric-driven vehicle wheel, and the operator control panel, whereas the control and drive system includes D.C. motors for robotic arms, rim motor drives, operator control panel interface circuit and the FPGA-based intelligent control chip.

“This FPGA chip serves as the core component of the system,” added Chen. The FPGA chip contains the Nios II multi-core processor, circuits for robotic arms and electric-drive vehicle wheels and operator control panel.

In order to set a safety threshold, Chen noted, “a warning mechanism has been designed for a set of physiological signals which can be quantified into physiological parameters in order to compare theoretical values and clinical data within the computer program of the monitoring platform.”

He said, the design of the i-Transport carrier also includes safety measures. Using the ANSYS Workbench software, when the carrier carries a load (assuming the load to weigh 100 kg), 3 safety factors including shape change, stress and safety parameter are analyzed and then simulated.

If the safety factor is greater than 1, it basically means that regardless of sitting or standing postures, this design is safe and cannot be easily damaged, according to Su.

The interdisciplinary research team of the “i-Transport” is comprised of NCKU BME Professor Fong-Chin Su, Professor Tain-Song Chen, NCKU Department of Industrial Design Professor Kuoh-Siang Chen, Southern Taiwan University of Science and Technology (STUT) Department of Electrical Engineering Professor Ying-Shi Gong, and Kaohsiung Medical University (KMU) Department of Occupational Therapy Professor Jyh-Jong Chang.
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