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Engineering and Clinical Evaluation of the VA-PAMAID Robotic Walker

Rentschler, Andrew J (2004) Engineering and Clinical Evaluation of the VA-PAMAID Robotic Walker. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Veterans Affairs Personal Adaptive Mobility Aid (VA-PAMAID) is a robotic walker that is designed to provide physical support and obstacle avoidance and navigational assistance to frail visually impaired individuals. The goal of this study was to develop and implement testing protocols to determine the performance and safety capabilities of the device and use the results to redesign the walker to make it more reliable and effective.Engineering tests were performed to determine factors such as stability, range, speed, and fatigue strength. Additional tests to characterize the reliability and accuracy of the sensors and avoidance/navigation algorithms were also conducted. The walker traveled 10.9 kilometers on a full charge, and was able to avoid obstacles while traveling at a speed of up to 1.2 m/s. There were no failures during static stability, climatic, or static, impact, and fatigue testing. Some problems were encountered during obstacle climbing and sensor and control testing. Several significant differences were found with respect to the detection distance of the device when varying the obstacle height, material, approach angle, and lighting source. The walker also failed to detect 40-50% of the doorways during the hallway test.Clinical trials were conducted to compare the VA-PAMAID to a low-tech mobility aid (AMD). Subjects were recruited and trained to use both devices efficiently. Each participant was then asked to traverse an obstacle course several times. The time to complete the course, number of wall and obstacle collisions, and number of reorientations were all recorded and averaged. There were no significant differences between the VA-PAMAID and the AMD with respect to collisions or reorientations. The AMD had a significantly lower completion time (p=0.017) than the VA-PAMAID on the obstacle course. The results of the engineering and clinical tests were then used in a house of quality model to determine what factors of the walker needed to be revised. Specific modifications were recommended that would make the device safer, more reliable, and more marketable. Changing the wheel size, mass, component positions, detection algorithm, and other variables would make the VA-PAMAID easier to use and more effective for elderly visually impaired individuals.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Rentschler, Andrew Jajrst22@pitt.eduAJRST22
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairCooper, Roryrcooper@pitt.eduRCOOPER
Committee MemberBlasch,
Committee MemberBoninger, Michaelmlboning@pitt.eduMLBONING
Committee MemberSimpson, Richardris20@pitt.eduRIS20
Date: 9 June 2004
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 17 March 2004
Approval Date: 9 June 2004
Submission Date: 24 March 2004
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Swanson School of Engineering > Bioengineering
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: navigational assistance; obstacle avoidance; robotic walker
Other ID:, etd-03242004-102741
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:32
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:37


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