The Personal Mobility and Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA) is an electric-powered wheelchair with robotic arms attached. The arms can be manipulated by the wheelchair user or a remote user via the internet. The device is being developed to help wheelchair users that have limited hand function (people with high levels of spinal cord injury, Cerebral Palsy, etc.). McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
faculty member Rory Cooper, PhD, FISA/PVA Endowed Chair and a Distinguished Professor of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, leads the PerMMA project which is a part of the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center supported by the National Science Foundation and the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL), which is a Veteran’s Administration Rehabilitation Research and Development Service Center of Excellence.
PerMMA's robotic arms can be manipulated either by the wheelchair user themselves or via remote control on the internet by a user at another location. Because the wheelchair has webcams attached that are positioned to see what the wheelchair user sees, a remote user is able to evaluate the wheelchair user's environment and control the robotic arms to assist them. So, if the wheelchair user needed assistance completing a task, they would call for help. An assistant, via the internet, would see the wheelchair user's environment and control PerMMa's robotic arms to help the wheelchair user complete the task. Some of the tasks PerMMa has done remotely include picking up objects and bringing them within the wheelchair user's reach, heating up food in a microwave, getting a drink of water, etc.
Recently HERL students demonstrated PerMMA to some prominent visitors that were in Pittsburgh for the G-20 Summit. The Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd (pictured standing far center) and first lady Ms. Therese Rein (pictured seated) were both interested in the functionality of PerMMA. Also, the Chinese Minister of Commerce Mr. Chen Deming (pictured near right) and his colleagues received a demonstration of the technology. One could tell that the Chinese entourage was visibly impressed for it was all "thumbs ups" and handshakes following the demonstration.
The PerMMA project also receives support from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Illustration: Human Engineering Research Laboratories.
QoLT Systems: Personal Mobility and Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA)
Bio: Dr. Rory Cooper