This voice-controlled robotic furniture assists disabled folks (Video)

Wolfgang Gil
© Wolfgang Gil

Accessibility for differently abled individuals can be a huge issue when it comes to trying to get into older buildings that don't have a ramp, or trying to cook or garden.

Inspired by his best friend's struggles with muscular dystrophy while they were living together, industrial designer Nour Malaeb created Relay, a transforming piece of furniture that is somewhat of a cross between a multifunctional table, walker and a voice-controlled robotic personal assistant:

Nour Malaeb© Nour Malaeb
Nour Malaeb© Nour Malaeb

As Malaeb explains, it's all about increasing autonomy inside the home:

Independence takes many forms, and for a lot of people, it means being able to live alone. For people with disabilities and mobility impairments, this often involves “hacking” their homes: modifying surfaces, installing ADA-approved hardware, and using clinical devices to fill in the gaps. But the options available to them are limited, and usually involve medical devices which were designed for a hospital environment, not a home. Why aren’t assistive devices designed to fit into our homes?

Relay is a suite of stylish robotic furniture that is designed to fill this gap. Each piece of furniture is able to carry out simple but meaningful tasks for its owner, from carrying heavy items around the home, to helping someone stand up from a seated position, to providing extra support and stability while walking from room to room. Relay robots respond to intuitive voice commands, but people can also interact with them through a variety of interfaces that accommodate a broad range of ability and disability.

Wolfgang Gil© Wolfgang Gil
Wolfgang Gil© Wolfgang Gil
Wolfgang Gil© Wolfgang Gil

We've seen examples of robotic furniture before, but Malaeb's rendition really attempts to tackle the particular needs and desires of disabled individuals, and is intended to be a cheaper alternative to service animals.

In particular, Malaeb spoke to people at the Brooklyn Center for Independence of the Disabled during the initial design stages to get a sense of what users would like to see in a robotic furniture prototype aimed at that specific population: some wanted an adaptable piece of furniture that could also double as a walker, while others were looking for a feature to help them up if they fell down.

For now, Relay is just a prototype; Malaeb hopes to develop it further so that it can garner FDA approval, as well as potentially developing a modular kit of parts that could be adapted onto conventional furniture so that they can become more accessibility-friendly. To see more, visit Nour Malaeb.

Via: Fast Company

Related Content on Treehugger.com