PerMMA 1-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

PerMMA - Personal Mobility & Manipulation Appliance

Enables a unique spectrum of full or partial control for power wheelchair users to extend independence

PerMMA is a power wheelchair fitted with two dexterous robotic arms that allow people with severe disabilities a greater range of mobility and manipulation capabilities.

The system affords a unique spectrum of full or partial control by either the local user on his or her own; by a remote caregiver attendant controling the robot through teleoperation; or by any mixture of these two control approaches.  These diverse control options are then paired with automatic system functions to offer users an unprecendented range of choices for interacting both in and with the world - as well as with the assistive technology itself.

PerMMA integrates state-of-the-art technologies including machine perception, path planning, controls and human system interaction. Sensory capabilities allow for environmental perception to enhance PerMMA's intelligence in assuring the comfort and protection of its end users.  Commercially available subsystems provide reliability, safety and ease of maintenance while also optimizing PerMMA for custom mechanical, electronic and software interface integration.

Core Benefits:

  • Closes mobility and manipulation gaps
  • Extends independence in completing daily living tasks
  • Reduces reliance on caregiver assistance 

Targeted User Populations:

  • Power wheelchair (PWC) users
  • People with severe disabilities
  • Spinal chord injury survivors using PWCs
  • Stroke survivors using PWCs

"Robots can augment human assistance to provide for greater autonomy, privacy, spontaneity, and improved quality of life. PerMMA's features are intended to help people with disabilities and caregivers have more quality time together and optimize work sharing.  For example, PerMMA's explorations into telepresence have focused on advances in optimizing communication, understanding remote and local interfaces, and in sharing control between two people. We're learning a lot about how to provide and collect information to help end-users achieve their goals. One of the biggest challenges is anticipating user intent, and providing assistance when, where, and how needed."


-- Dr. Rory Cooper, University of Pittsburgh

About the Research:

PerMMA is a significant development platform that allows for testing of numerous QoLT capabilities and their impact on people with disabilities.

Recent work has focused on end-user assessment of PerMMA's ability to facilitate basic activities of daily living; integration of strong arm capabilities for heavy lifting and transfers; automated driving-surface recognition and response; and a new graphical user interface for local and remote user control applications.  PerMMA Gen2 is also underway to introduce a new base design for advanced traction control and a torque-proportional-integrated-derivative (T-PID) control algorithm for curb climbing.

Learn More:

qolt trl 5
PerMMA opening a drawer
PerMMA retrieving items for a user.

PerMMA cup stabilization
Close-up of PerMMA cup stabilization.

PerMMA helps a user make popcorn.
PerMMA making microwave popcorn.


Dr. Rory Cooper,
Lead Researcher
(p): 412-365-5612

Garrett Grindle,

Kristen Sabol,
QoLT Communications and Media
(p): 412-303-7396