A simulator for both manual and powered wheelchairs in immersive virtual reality CAVE

C. Genova, E. Biffi, S. Arlati, D. F. Redaelli, A. Prini, M. Malosio, C. Corbetta, A. Davalli, M. Sacco, G. Reni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A large number of people in the world need to use a wheelchair because of different disabilities. Driving a wheelchair requires complex physical and cognitive abilities which need to be trained. Virtual training helps users acquire driving skills in a safe environment. The aim of this paper is to describe and technically validate simulation models for both manual (MW) and powered wheelchairs (PW) based on immersive virtual reality CAVE (VR). As VR system, the Gait Real-time Analysis Interactive Lab (GRAIL) was used, a CAVE equipped with a motion platform with two degrees of freedom and an optoelectronic motion capture system. A real wheelchair was positioned onto the motion platform with rear wheels free to turn in MW modality, and a commercial joystick was installed on an armrest to simulate the PW modality. Passive markers were used to track the wheel rotation, the joystick and the user hand motion. Custom D-flow applications were developed to manage virtual scene response to user actions. Overground tests, based on single wheel rotation, were performed to verify the simulation model reliability. Quantitative results demonstrated that the MW simulator kinematics was consistent with a real wheelchair overground in the absence of wheel slip and inertia (median error for MW 0.40 °, no systematic bias p = 0.943, high correlation rho > 0.999, p < 0.01). The proposed solution is flexible and adaptable to different wheelchairs, joysticks and optoelectronic systems. The main limitation is the absence of force feedback. Nevertheless, it is a reliable prototype that can be used to validate new virtual scenarios as well as for wheelchair training. The next steps include the system validation with real end users and assessment of the simulator effectiveness as a training tool.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalVirtual Reality
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Immersive virtual reality
  • Manual wheelchair
  • Powered wheelchair
  • Simulating system

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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