Permobil Connects Electric Wheelchair App to Alexa and Google Assistant
Electric wheelchair manufacturer Permobil has released voice apps connecting Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa to its MyPermobil mobile app. Permobil owners can now get access to the current status of their wheelchair with voice commands.
The MyPermobil app collects real-time information about the wheelchair’s battery charge, how far it can travel before running out, and the distance it has already traveled since it was last plugged in. The app also gathers a report on the previous week and month’s use of the power seating feature of Permobil wheelchairs, which adjusts the position of the seat and legs to prevent the person in the wheelchair from being in one position for too long. Now, Permobil owners can now connect the app to Google Assistant or Alexa and ask the voice assistants to pull up all of that information without needing to take out their smartphone. Plenty of wheelchair users are not able to reach or control their smartphones very easily or at all. The option to interact with the app using voice commands is their first opportunity to access crucial information about their wheelchair.
“Permobil demonstrates our commitment to innovating for individuals as the only wheelchair manufacturer offering an end-user smartphone app that has Voice Assistant,” Permobil Americas president Chuck Witkowski said. “MyPermobil is the most comprehensive end-user wheelchair app available, and it does not require the end user’s data or Wi-Fi once activated.”
Permobil claims to be the first wheelchair maker with voice app access, but applying voice tech to accessibility has become a very popular trend over the last few years. For instance, British tech startup WeWalk began selling a ‘smart cane’ packed with high-tech equipment last year. The cane connects to the user’s phone and has a touchpad that activates the phone’s voice assistant, which communicates through a speaker built into the cane. And Permobil is limited in its voice app to when Google Assistant and Alexa can understand what the user is saying.
That’s why some of the voice app beta testers are also part of Google’s Project Euphonia, which is working on training voice assistants to understand what people with speech impairments are saying. And Permobil explicitly suggests customers with atypical speech who prefer Alexa use Voiceitt, a speech recognition tool designed to understand what people with speech impairments say and that is able to convey those commands directly to Alexa.