The National Science Foundation has awarded a $200,000 grant to Prehensile Technologies. The Purdue startup will use the grant to further develop RoboDesk, a motorized wheelchair tray.
RoboDesk uses an arm to deploy or retract a mobile electronic device without hindering the normal seat functions of a power wheelchair. Prehensile Technologies Co-Founder Brad Duerstock says the grant will allow the company to complete an extensive market analysis.
"Our product will be built entirely based on the perspective of the user so that people with disabilities can have easy access to mobile computing and this grant will help us collect this information," said Duerstock. "We want to really grasp what power wheelchair users need and want in our RoboDesk technology, so we plan to find out this information by conducting focus groups. We also will ask the focus groups and beta testers to try and break our product so we can see its flaws first hand and use that information to improve the quality of the product and make it more sustainable."
Duerstock says the company’s short-term goal is to commercialize RoboDesk and start seeing it on wheelchairs as soon as possible. He says the long-term goal is to reach the point of running a sustainable business and advancing the technology for use on manual wheelchairs and other types of seating such as recliners and beds.
Duerstock is an associate professor in Purdue’s College of Engineering and founded the company with Li Hwa Chong, CPA, a Purdue alumnus who serves as chief financial officer. Prehensile Technologies licensed RoboDesk through the Purdue Research Foundation Office of Technology Commercialization.
Click below to view a video about Prehensile Technologies and RoboDesk.