I am a quadriplegic in a power wheelchair who ocasionally suffers delusions of normalcy and ableness, until reality crashes down and reminds me I don't have opposable thumbs anymore. Rather than get forlorn and depressed, I choose to remind myself that it is 2018 after all, and what good is living in the future if we can't solve nearly all human woes with robotics and automation?
So without further ado, I would invite you to envision an existence almost completely devoid of independence, in which you are unable to eat, open a door, or even go to the bathroom without someone else's help. It's quite easy to end up into almost a downward spiral of disability, in which trying and failing at the most basic human tasks leads one to question the worth of their existence. And this scenario isn't just limited to spinal cord injury victims such as myself, but also includes the elderly and infirm as well.
So what can be done? I propose a low cost, open source, relatively easily constructed robotic arm that would clamp on to the armrest or back plate of a power wheelchair based off of an Arduino microcontroller and controls that can be customized to individual users levels of function and control. For instance, I have no grasp in my hands, but can still use my arms and my wrists, so I could probably still control the robotic arm with a normal joystick whereas others may need more extensive adaptation. Some people, for instance those with ALS or MS, may benefit more from a setup that would allow them to control the arm with their tongue or eye movement.
The initial version of my project would use an Arduino Yun Rev2, an Arduino Mega, and even possibly a C-9895 Robotic arm kit. First, I'd like to get the arm reliably working and mounted on my wheelchair. The next step would be mounting it on my spare electric wheelchair base, then wire in an ESP8266 to drive the base around and control the arm over my local wifi or directly from my cellphone, and just like that I have an autonomous helper robot straight out of the future!
There are numerous additional benefits of having a networkable robotic arm which would easily attach to most wheelchairs or tables in both Health Care and industry settings. For instance, in nursing homes a robotic arm equipped with a camera and programmed with a basic feeding program would not only have a literally inhuman level of patience, but would enable the human caregivers to focus on more high priority tasks. A similar setup on a factory floor would not only give assembly line workers a third arm, but would also ensure quality control and machine learning with the incorporation of an HD camera in the head of the robotic arm.
Thank you very much, both for your consideration and for hosting such an excellent forum for education and innovation!