Powered Mount

SMART: Scalable, Modular, Accessible Robotic Technology

The SMART Mount is an innovative solution that enables independent positioning of devices for individuals with significant physical impairments from their wheelchair or bed. The only options today are custom solutions or very expensive and complex wheelchair-mounted robotic arms which support just 3-5 pounds. The SMART mount will support and move loads up to 15 pounds.

The SMART mount can have multiple Sweet Spots for quick repositioning to the most frequent preferred positions. A person can also adjust each aspect independently—all through accessible controls of their choice.

The Need

People with significant mobility impairments and limited or no upper extremity use, such as those with ALS, MD and high level Spinal Cord Injuries are usually reliant on others to move and position things for them. They need access to speech devices, computers, phones, food, drinks and other things. They spend most of their day in either a wheelchair or bed, and their needs change, yet they cannot move anything and must wait for assistance.

Existing mounting and positioning technology which supports devices includes static mounts—which position a single item in one place; or BlueSky Designs’ Mount’n Mover—movable by those with some upper extremity use. In addition, there are complex wheelchair-mounted robotic arms, which usually focus on reaching and grasping, and cannot support more than 3-5 pounds.

People need to be able to move and access essential items independently—none of the systems available currently address this need.

Proposed Solution

The proposed SMART mount solution will offer a means for people to move things where they want it, when they need it. It is a simple, easy to operate mounting and positioning device which is operable by various accessible means—ie, switches and wheelchair controls. It is modular, so a person can configure it according to their needs.

The SMART mount can have multiple Sweet Spots for quick repositioning to the most frequent preferred positions. A person can also adjust each aspect independently—all through accessible controls of their choice.

The basic building block of this flexible and modular system is the SMART Joint. The SMART Joint is comprised of its housing, gears, motor and printed circuit board with a wireless transceiver and position-sensing capacity. A person can configure a single or multi-joint system to meet their needs: a single SMART joint could add a powered tilt function to a speech device mount so it can be repositioned while driving; two joints can be linked together to form an arm with shoulder and device rotation; they can add a height-adjustment component; or all these functions can be combined in a single system.

The proposed SMART mount solution will offer:

  • Switch-accessible controls
  • Programmable Sweet Spots for quick and easy positioning
  • Independent operation and programming
  • Available in Single Joint, or integrated system of joints
  • Height-adjustable lift option
  • 15 pound load capacity

Technical Development

Manufacturability: Design for ease of assembly and manufacturing

Joint/Housing design: Quick Release to move the arm without power; >360 degree rotation at device joint

Drive design: Support and move up to 15 pound devices; hold position when motor is inactive, even at a tilt

Electronics: Highly accurate position-sensing; back-off for safety of end user; controlled with various accessible input; program set positions; quickly move to set points or adjust individual joints

User interface: Simple and intuitive user interface, accommodating various input methods (switches, joystick control); able to be moved and programmed by end user or assistant

Height-adjustable Lift: range to be determined

Power supply: Rechargeable battery, wheelchair battery, or AC power


3-4 sites will be involved in soliciting input and feedback from both staff and clients. Twenty end users and twenty practitioners will be involved in focus groups or individual sessions.

Partnering organizations/sites include:

Fairview/U of Minnesota Rehabilitation Clinic
Gillette Lifetime Clinic
Courage-Kenny Rehab Center
ALS Society of Minnesota
Therapists from other leading rehab centers have expressed interest; and RESNA members at the Developer’s Forum provide feedback at the annual conference.

Early Stage: Solicit Input and Feedback
Focus Groups: Demonstrate prototypes and get reactions
Usability Testing: Individuals will operate prototypes and provide feedback on the UI
Field Testing: Therapists and up to 6 end users will try it for 1-2 months


Phase 2 began in June 2013 and will run through June 2015. Key aspects of the design are to the point where we will invest in tooling so we can have metal units to test in 2014.

Additional Information

Powered Mount and SMART Mount R&D was made possible through two separate SBIR projects. The initial R&D sponsored by NIDRR resulted in working switch-accessible prototypes that would move to specific sweet spots. The position-sensing was problematic, and it could not be easily manufactured.

With NIH support in a second SBIR, a modular approach was taken, and an effective approach to position-sensing has been proven. We are currently in Year 1 of the Phase 2 grant, and the results are promising. It is anticipated we will offer a beta release of a Single SMART Joint product by the end of 2014, and a full system in 2015.

NIH/NICHD SBIR Phase 2 (2013-15) Goodwin (PI)
SMART Mounts: Accessible Robotic Mounts
Initially developed to allow manual independent repositioning of devices, the Mount’n Mover will become power operated for use by people with more severe physical limitations. Interfacing with different control devices such as switches and eye tracking controls will also expand the usability base. This grant will result in a commercialized SMART (Scalable Modular Accessible Robotic Technology) robotic swing-away support for people with disabilities.

NIDRR SBIR Phase 2 (2006-09) Goodwin (PI) 10/2006-9/2009
Powered Device Mounting and Positioning Technology for Persons with Disabilities
This project will result in a powered device mounting and positioning system which enables individuals with severe physical limitations to reposition devices independently via switch, joystick or voice input.

NIDRR SBIR Phase 1 (2005-06) Goodwin (PI) 10/2005-4/2006
Powered Device Mounting and Positioning Technology for Persons with Disabilities