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Posted By Allison Todd

Project Overview


Principal Investigator:   David Reinkensmeyer (University of California at Irvine)  

Co - Investigator:  Brendan Smith (University of California at Irvine)

Synopsis/Goals of the Project

Develop a robotic, power-assist lever drive for a manual wheelchair that people with severe upper extremity impairment can use to both  exercise and ambulate.

Major Accomplishments


A Novel Wheelchair for Improving Recovery of the Arm through Exercise after Stroke

Novel Lever propelled wheelchair

Stroke inpatients spend on average about 4-5 hours between 8 and 5 PM sitting; about 2 of these hours are typically inactive. The key idea of our technology, which we believe should and will eventually become the standard wheelchair used for all stroke inpatients, is to facilitate arm activity by replacing the standard manual wheelchair that stroke patients typically sit in with a specially-designed lever-drive chair.

The Lever-Actuated Resonance Assistance (LARA) device allows the patient to 1) move him/herself about by pushing one lever with the impaired arm and the other lever with the other arm, and 2) play therapy-based computer games that improve movement ability of the impaired arm.

We recognize that this first assertion, that people with severe hemiparesis can use their impaired arm to propel and control a manual wheelchair, may seem doubtful. Indeed, at present they currently ambulate in manual wheelchairs using their feet and/or less affected arm or by being pushed by a caregiver. Neither approach contributes to recovery of the hemiparetic upper extremity.  Nevertheless, much to our and the user's’ surprise, it is possible to learn to propel LARA with a very severely impaired limb.  

We hypothesize that users will thus achieve thousands more arm movements than is current practice, reducing their arm impairment.  

The device is being further developed with NIH Phase 2 SBIR funding by the start-up company Flint Rehabilitation Devices.

For more detailed information (scientific publication and videos:)

  • Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2014;2014:5292-5. doi: 10.1109/EMBC.2014.6944820.

  • Overview video HERE:

  • Example video of two people with severe arm impairment using LARA HERE  

  • Example video of the prototype that uses a robotic clutch is available HERE

  • Example of someone with severe impairment learning to use LARA over six days. Video HERE


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