Touch screen

Touch Screen

The touch screen is used to give commands to the wheelchair either via a map of the environment, or through a button based interface.



The kinect uses a camera and a 3D depth sensor to detect places of interest (e.g., people, doors, stairs, etc.) and to recognize gestures.

Laser range finders

Laser Range Finders

The laser range finders measure the distance to obstacles around the wheelchair, by emitting invisible light in a horizontal plane and measuring the time it takes to reflect from objects.

Remote controller

Remote Controller

The on-board joystick is a traditional method of control for a person sitting in the wheelchair. The wireless joystick allows for remotely controlling the wheelchair from a distance.


Smart Wheeler

The goal of the SmartWheeler project is to increase the autonomy and safety of individuals with severe mobility impairments by developing a robotic wheelchair that is adapted to their needs. The project tackles a range of challenging issues, focusing in particular on tasks pertaining to human-robot interaction, and on robust control of the intelligent wheelchair. The platform we have built also serves as a test-bed for validating novel concepts and algorithms for automated decision making for socially assistive robots. Our research is funded by generous grants from NSERC, CFI, CIHR, and FQRNT.

Collaborating institutions

  • McGill University – Joelle Pineau
  • Ecole Polytechnique Montréal - Richard Gourdeau
  • Université de Montréal - Louise Demers, Dahlia Kairy, Robert Forget, Paula Rushton
  • Institut de réadaptation en déficience physique de Québec - François Routhier
  • Lucie-Bruneau Rehabilitation Centre
  • Constance-Lethbridge Rehabilitation Centre


There are about 4.3 million users of powered wheelchairs in the US alone(Simpson, 2008). Up to 40% of patients find daily steering and maneuvering tasks to be difficult or impossible (Fehr, 2000). Developing a smart wheelchair has the potential to improve the mobility of a lot of people. There is a little competition from industry in this market. In the development stages, the smart wheelchair can be used as a flexible platform to investigate a wide spectrum of cognitive robotics problems.