Client Arie Fokkink talks about the project 'Zelfactualisatie Robotics '

The reason for this proposal is a specific request for help and the subsequent own development process. It's not about Arie, but about his son. Andrei Fokkink is spastic, cannot speak and cannot use his limbs functionally. As a result, his own wheelchair cannot move, but he dreams of it. How nice would it be if he indicates on his eye-controlled computer on the map where he wants to go and that his wheelchair drives there itself, avoiding obstacles?

“We see in the literature that development processes for self-driving wheelchairs stop after some time. That is different from the development of self-driving cars such as Tesla. Due to the low demand, the development of wheelchairs for commercial parties is apparently less interesting.”

How did you experience this project?

“We have experienced this project as 'great'. We had broadened the original issue. After a few weeks, the project group found it difficult to define part of the theme and to carry out an in-depth study. As a result, I took the project around the robot out of the stable again. Three years ago, that was helped along by Saxion students, but then it was left behind.”

“Three years after the first attempt, we now have a real breakthrough: a robot that Andrei can control with his eye-controlled computer. The robot can see with the camera where Andrei can't and transfer and retrieve text messages from people elsewhere in the room. Thanks to the multidisciplinary student group at the UT! The follow-up group is now working on making the prototype more robust and safe in a use context. The robot is also refurbished. The aim is to lay the foundation for the platform function of the robot, on which various functions can be mounted as required by the disabled. The group is also investigating how such robots can be marketed financially. I think open innovation will play an important role in this.”

How will the outcome of this project be applied?

“The long-term goal is that the use of this robot is a stepping stone towards a self-driving wheelchair. That Andrei can indicate on a map where he wants to go with his eye-controlled computer and that the wheelchair will drive there itself, avoiding obstacles along the way. If that is possible with a lawnmower, a vacuum cleaner or a Tesla, then it should also be possible with the wheelchair.”

What was it like to work on this together with students from Enschede?

“We work with groups of students from very different fields of study. In it you see very clearly: learning processes of how to organize things, insight into what the right questions are, what the right approach is and how you use everyone in their strength. Seeing people learn is just beautiful!! It is also very nice to see that insight into the question behind the question increases during the process and that students become highly motivated.”

What are the future plans for this project?

“The great thing is that we also set out lines for a longer-term collaboration with the challenge supervisors. That is super important to us as challenge providers. We have a social purpose and we can invest some time and money, but we have to measure that.”