The Tekla Shield

Helping motor impaired individuals control mobile devices via Bluetooth.

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Some of the projects we spotlight here on the SparkFun homepage are really cool, inventive, and fun, but are maybe not the most utilitarian projects out there (what can we say...we're suckers for blinky). This project, however, is a truly amazing idea that could potentially help thousands of people live better lives.

There are certain things that I'll admit I take for granted - things like reaching into my pocket to answer my cellphone or changing the song on my iPod. But if you are an individual with motor impairments, doing these tasks can be impossible. Fortunately, there are people like the folks over at Tekla who are working to design alternative ways for people to control their mobile devices using the same interfaces they use to control their wheelchairs.

Basically, it works like this. Many powered-wheelchairs are controlled with a thing called an ACU (applicance control unit). Tekla designed something called the Tekla Shield, a Bluetooth interface which connects the ACU unit to a user's mobile device. They can then control said mobile devices (cellphone, MP3 player, etc.) with a sip and puff switch, joystick, or other control. This is an amazing project with a worthwhile goal - SparkFun is truly humbled that our customers are using our products in such worthwhile projects. Outstanding work!

Comments 12 comments

  • Member #140809 / about 14 years ago / 2

    Wow! A true class act!

  • Richard Hart / about 14 years ago / 2

    That's so inspiring it brings a tear to my eye. My hat's off to you, Tekla.

  • EZ$ / about 14 years ago / 2

    Very cool.<br />
    In my mind the most fulfilling hacks are like this. Very simple, interface-able with everything and can change lives. I would like to know what question or answer came up to get this idea started. Very Inspiring Grate post.<br />
    "The phone is a good start. But what else can you use bluetooth to hook up to?" "TV remote, Lights, Stero system, laptop, even an xbox or game console." I can make a bluetooth to universal Ir remote. Even a bluetooth RC car. You could imagine a kid who has never been able to drive an rc car before with something like this. All from the same device. <br />
    <br />

    • Great idea EZ$! Once you have a user interface that people with disabilities could use easily, you could open up so many technological doors (literally in some cases). I'm thinking "Smart Homes" where someone in a wheelchair could operate nearly everything in their house with one device like this.<br />
      <br />
      Make it happen Sparkfunions!

  • N.Poole / about 14 years ago / 2

    Heck yea! Now THAT's what I'm talking about:<br />
    Better Living Trough Tech

  • Great work!! Always happy to hear about Biomedical Engineering projects.<br />
    <br />
    By the by, what happened to Product Post Thursday?

    • Our product post guru had to suddenly head out of town. Product post Thursday will be back with a vengeance next week.

  • eewestcoaster / about 14 years ago / 2

    That's an excellent project! Your products are great fun to tinker with, but it's always impressive to see someone take this equipment and design devices that will really help people in their daily lives. Nice work, Tekla!

  • Member #112030 / about 14 years ago / 2


  • sgrace / about 14 years ago / 1

    Reminds me of a classmate in college. He was devising a system to take just brain waves to do it. Modeled it in Matlab and was building the components, and go it to work no problem.

    • N.Poole / about 14 years ago / 2

      Three cheers for EEG.<br />
      <br />
      relatively simple. very cheap. shockingly effective.<br />
      let's see some more development in these fields, man, I wanna make calls with my brain!<br />
      (Biomed is sort of my pet technology, lol)

      • sgrace / about 14 years ago / 1

        He also wasn't using an Arduino to build it, so using the Arduino would be much easier to do, but the EEG setup would take months upon months of work to make sure your brain waves would work.

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