PerMMA-Quality of Life Technology Center - Carnegie Mellon University

Personal Mobility & Manipulation Appliance (PerMMA)

The objective of PerMMA is to combine manipulation and mobility assistance with perception and decision making wherever a person goes. PerMMA is a multi-disciplinary project that combines mobility, bimanual robotic manipulation, machine perception, path planning, controls, and user interface to create an integrated system. PerMMA will offer greater independence to individuals with mobility and upper extremity impairments by allowing them to perform tasks, in both their home and community that would otherwise require the assistance of others. No devices of this nature currently exist. For many people with disabilities, essential tasks such as dressing, shopping, and food preparation require the assistance of an attendant. PerMMA aims to address these needs, thus allowing the user to be more independent, andreducing or eliminating the need for caregiver assistance.

When end-users were consulted they reported that they wanted “zero-gap” in mobility and manipulation between them and an unimpaired person. We leverage our strengths in robotics and mobility aids to overcome the shortcomings and unmet needs of device that provides coordinated mobility and manipulation. Some of the new functionalities that PerMMA will provide are to detect and/or predict user intent, to provide coordinated movement between a power base and multiple manipulators, to include natural and intuitive user interfaces & control modes, and to incorporate real-world navigation and docking assistance. In order to make interaction easier we will use a wide range of natural and intuitive interfaces that reduce the time to complete tasks and produce fluid human-like motions. We are working on extending mobility range to overcome mobility barriers intransigent to traditional approaches. Lastly, our ultimate goal is in supporting independence so that people can go out and do things without an attendant.

PerMMA is not a just wheelchair with "added intelligence" and arms; it is a mobile robotic manipulator with a seat for a person. Though we may develop custom hardware in the future, we choose to start the prototype development by using commercially available subsystems. We selected Permobil C500 with multiple seat functions as the mobile platform, as it is equipped to handle the seating needs of users and its seat functions can be instrumented to act as usable degrees of freedom in a robotic system.  As an arm, we selected ARM (formerly MANUS) manipulators, which are designed specifically for use on power wheelchairs because of their built-in safety features and modest power requirements. We designed and fabricated a custom controller to handle the input/output needs, high computational power, and programming flexibility that are required for PerMMA.

Project Team

  • Rory Cooper, Lead
  • Rosi Cooper
  • Brad Dicianno
  • Dan Ding
  • Garrett Grindle
  • Brian Harvey
  • Alexandra Jefferds
  • Jonathan Pearlman
  • Tanya Liu
  • Benjamin Salatin
  • Richard Simpson
  • Steve Hayashi
  • David Whie
  • Emily Teodorski
  • Juan Jose Vazquez
  • Hongwu Wang


Beverage Retrieval Simulation

Permma figure