August 12, 2022



Meet the startup that’s reinventing the wheelchair

7 min read

As a know-how that’s been spherical for a few years, powered wheelchairs aren’t exactly a hotbed of innovation. Apart from some main enhancements in power and battery life, they’ve largely remained the equivalent for the previous couple of years.

However that’s to not say no particular person’s pushing the envelope on this space. A pair years prior to now at at CES, Digital Traits acquired an early check out LUCI, an trendy startup that’s aiming to supply all the world’s wheelchairs a technological enhance, retrofitting them with aftermarket abilities like obstacle avoidance, drop-off detection, 360-degree sensor imaginative and prescient, and good assistant integrations. In 2021, the company had merely barely launched and was nonetheless getting off the underside, nonetheless proper right here in 2022, it’s truly starting to make waves — so we caught up with founders Barry and Jered Dean to take heed to regarding the agency’s journey up to now — and as well as what’s coming subsequent.

Digital Traits: What impressed you to rethink the best way wherein wheelchairs work?

Barry: It comes from my daughter, Katherine, our family, and our lived experience, frankly. I’m not in a chair, neither is Jered, nonetheless my daughter, Katherine, is, and we had a pal of the family who was injured in a wheelchair accident. We wished to hunt out the utilized sciences and security to help her have further independence. And as she acquired older (she’s 21 now), we found it didn’t exist. We’ve found that irritating, and so we began working to try to resolve that draw back.

Numerous individuals don’t perceive that these power wheelchairs worth about as so much as a vehicle, and the one safety operate on them is a seat belt. The incapacity group has been left behind by know-how, and it’s form of this forgotten world. At LUCI, we’ve been working truly laborious to hold know-how to this world, to these clients, to our family.

What shocked you primarily essentially the most when researching wheelchair proprietor data?

Barry: The problems that almost definitely shock people primarily essentially the most are the value of the wheelchair and the load, which we knew from our lived experience. Additionally, discovering out that twice as many people are getting harm and going to the ER in wheelchair accidents as they’re in bike accidents. There are a great deal of wheelchair accidents available on the market, nonetheless everyone form of assumes it’s merely them or they may even suppose, “it’s my fault.” We had these self similar concepts until we started understanding that it wasn’t solely a family draw back, nonetheless reasonably an commerce draw back — a safety concern for anyone who’s using a motorized cell gadget.

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We wished to indicate safety issues in a scientific means. We labored with a crash examine facility that does automotive and aerospace. After the first examine ran, the facility engineers started realizing the difficulty they often often known as an educated, who said the forces we’re seeing when a person runs proper right into a wall (at full tempo on a chair) exceed what’s allowed in vehicles by the federal authorities. The person is the bumper in a wheelchair should you take into account it.

Let’s communicate choices. What makes LUCI utterly totally different from totally different mobility devices?

Jered: So primarily, a client can add LUCI to an current power wheelchair, and it turns a dumb wheelchair into a wise wheelchair.

We do collision avoidance and drop-off security, and connectivity to the pores and skin world. Collision avoidance and drop-off security truly are enhanced mobility. They help people navigate safely, and additional independently. LUCI permits clients to attach with effectively being trackers, Alexa, Google Assistant, and allows them to communicate and share knowledge with their teams. It comes with a cell utility, which could let clients profit from choices and upgrades like LUCI View, which is one factor that we merely launched in April. It permits clients to see a 360-degree view of what LUCI sees throughout the chair.

Our clients are of all abilities. Some can switch freely with typical joysticks, some use numerous drive controls, some even drive with their eyes, so LUCI View could possibly be critically helpful, letting clients see what’s behind them and all the best way wherein spherical them, equivalent to on any fashionable vehicle.

Barry: Within the good tech world, we’re used to over-the-air updates and a platform technique to know-how, together with choices that we don’t primarily have to pay for a model new gadget to get. That’s not one factor that’s come to this commerce on this implies. When you think about it, an affect wheelchair is likely to be one in every of many largest expenditures any individual is spending on, however it’s not associated to the problems we want it associated to? We wished to differ that.

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We’re moreover introducing new know-how for seating that’s game-changing. As an example, some people use air cushions — 25% or 30% use an air cushion to help mitigate stress hurt. But when that air cushion is simply not inflated appropriately, it actually works in direction of you. So, we’ve acquired a monitor often known as LUCI Air that helps maintain monitor of this. It sends alerts or texts if it detects a problem and tracks the information over time.

There’s moreover a model new know-how that we’re engaged on — merely now in beta, so it’s not out however. It helps people using ramp vans (which might be the narrowest ramps) using tagging and robotics know-how.

We’re all the time looking for the ache components, and we take heed to our prospects and ask ourselves “what are the issues that individuals are asking for, and the way will we get these to them as quickly as attainable?” We initiated the platform, and now we’re ready to start addressing these immediately.

Is LUCI acceptable with any power wheelchair or solely explicit fashions?

Barry: It’s explicit producers and fashions, nonetheless LUCI works with the majority of what’s purchased now (group 3 medical power wheelchairs). The file retains rising too. If we’d had this dialog a 12 months prior to now, we’d have been on one mannequin and two fashions, and now we’re on 4 producers and quite a lot of fashions.


Is that this one factor at current coated by insurance coverage protection, or is likely to be coated by insurance coverage protection eventually?

Barry: Proper now, it’s submitted beneath this code often known as the KO108 code. It could possibly be the equivalent code you’d use for any individual making use of to drive with sensors they contact with their head, these types of points. Customers submit beneath K0108 and have a medical expert write a medical justification for it. Then the insurer can decide whether or not or to not approve. Solely about 4% of our product sales have been personal pay. The relief have been coated by each personal insurance coverage protection like Medicaid, the VA, and so forth.

We now have been blissful to see what variety of clients have been ready to get safety for LUCI. We thought , early on, further purchasers have to be personal pay because of that happens fairly a bit with new merchandise and when shopping for tools for an affect wheelchair. As an example, Ii you want a charger in your phone put in your wheelchair, that’s a $540 alternative. Should you wished tilt and recline, that’s spherical a $7,000 alternative. So these decisions seem like decisions, nonetheless in actual fact you’ll type of need a number of of those points. We now have been pleasantly shocked though. And it’s very important to know that this sort of justification is required for the chair, too! For every issue a person desires, they’re having to justify every little issue. I’m undecided most people understand what riders endure.

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Let’s say any particular person purchases a LUCI system. What happens then? Can they arrange it themselves, or does it require a specialised technician?

Jered: LUCI is a quick-install course of, however it certainly’s put in on the clinics and on the VA. They’ve technicians who arrange utterly totally different choices and upgrades on wheelchairs. While you buy a wheelchair, you order the wheelchair base, then the seat, after which the armrest, and so forth. They’re already placing in a bunch of elements to create this observe wheelchair — we’re a form of tools now you’ll be able to add on to your chair.

What type of have an effect on do you hope this sort of know-how can have on the world?

Jered: One of many points I’d like people to know is the scale of the difficulty. I was having a look at data the alternative day, and every week LUCI is stopping our clients from over 10,000 potential collisions and tip-overs. While you start having a look at these numbers and the hurt numbers, it reinforces that there’s an precise need for this. There’s someplace between 400,000 and 500,000 people in America in power chairs, nonetheless there’s 3.3 million people in information and power chairs, a minimum of inside the U.S. We have to serve these clients with merchandise which may be wise and that be part of out to the world.

Essentially the most very important metric to us is the fogeys which have further independence attributable to LUCI and the accidents they stay away from attributable to LUCI. That’s on the core of the whole thing we’re doing.

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