A 'smart' controller for a powered chair or bed

2023 "Assistive Tech" Winner!
Automates the powered recliner or bed.
Ideal for the mobility-challenged.

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I'm breathing new life into this, Effective 3/1/2024 !

A powered chair is a vital necessity for individuals facing mobility challenges due to disabilities.

One common issue users encounter is the complexity of getting off an elevated chair. Once the chair is raised, returning to a seated position becomes difficult, and lowering it involves reaching down, pressing and holding the "down" button until the chair returns to its regular height. The process is further complicated by the need to lean over as the chair descends.

This device can seamlessly integrate with the chair's existing buttons to automate the lowering process. It preserves the recliner's functionality while introducing intelligent buttons, eliminating the requirement to continuously hold a button. With the incorporation of a low-cost microcontroller (estimated at $15), the chair can be upgraded into a "smart" chair.

Before we delve into the details of the Smart Recliner add-on, I want to address the construction and appearance of the device. As someone who has been battling MS for over 35 years, I understand that my fine motor skills might not be at their best due to being one-handed. This has led to some challenges in creating a perfect-looking device. I sincerely apologize for any imperfections in the construction. I hope you can forgive this aspect and focus on the potential impact and benefits of the Smart Recliner add-on. After all, it's the functionality and convenience that truly matter.

 Who knows, maybe a couple of rainbow or unicorn stickers on it might make it pretty?? 

6/15 UPDATE: The project is now in the 'prototype' stage. The first, 'sloppy' concept stage mentioned above, has given way to a much more 'professional' look. 

At least I hope so.

The Smart Recliner add-on is specifically designed to enhance the lives of individuals with limited mobility, like me, who find it challenging to operate powered recliners with conventional controls. By introducing innovative automation, this device ensures that reclining becomes effortless and accessible for everyone.

My background consists of being an FM radio broadcast engineer for nearly 15 years, eventually jumping ship and landing as a professional software (c#) engineer for the past 20+ years.

The device:

Introducing the Smart Recliner add-on - Elevating Comfort and Convenience to New Heights!


The Smart Recliner add-on is a device designed to enhance the experience of using powered recliners, particularly for individuals with limited mobility. The exciting part? t's not something you can just run out and purchase anywhere, since it doesn't exist! It introduces a level of automation to the chair, bed, or other purposes, revolutionizing the way you interact with your recliner. This device is independent, yet seamlessly integrates with your existing recliner controller, making the transition smooth and user-friendly.

Key Features:

  1. Dual Controllers: By default and the way powered chair controllers are wired, you can't simply buy a "Y" midi cable adapter and expect it to work. It will not. The Smart Recliner bypasses this limitation by allowing  two controllers: the Main Controller and the Logic Controller. The Main Controller is your existing recliner's controller (2 or 4 button) and remains fully operational and transparent under the Smart Recliner's control. The Logic Controller, which also can be a 2 or 4-button model, serves as the automation hub, enabling a whole new level of convenience.
  2. Two modes of operation: The device offers two operation modes: timing-only and a more reliable and predictable mode that utilizes one or more optional "limit" switches. This advanced mode provides the advantage of precise control when a button is pressed.
  3. "Timing" mode home position recognition: When using  the timing mode, the Smart Recliner "knows" the chair's position (assuming it was powered-up in the normal, upright position) by counting the duration the motor is engaged. "Up" button reduces th1e time, while "Down" button adds to it. 
  4. "Switch" mode home position recognition: The optional limit switches positively identify the normal, upright position, regardless of what position the chair is, or when it was powered up. The two available limit switches are referred to as "Recline Home" and "Lift Home." While they seem to serve a similar function by 'closing' when the device is in its normal, upright position, their primary significance lies in providing the device with a clear indication of how it reached that position. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to employ the use of limit switches for optimal performance.
  5. Automated "Up and Out" Process: Pressing the "Up" button on the Logic Controller initiates the "up and out" process. If the chair is in the "normal" position,...
Read more »


This is the latest version of the schematic in KiCad (*. sch) format. Requires KiCad:

kicad_sch - 178.64 kB - 10/30/2023 at 22:01



This is the latest version of the schematic in jpg format

JPEG Image - 284.50 kB - 10/30/2023 at 22:01



This is the latest version of the schematic in pdf format.

Adobe Portable Document Format - 372.34 kB - 10/30/2023 at 22:00



Logic UP flowchart

Bitmap Image File - 2.47 MB - 06/29/2023 at 20:48


This is a more descriptive explanation of the device's operation

quicktime - 42.14 MB - 06/16/2023 at 15:00


View all 6 files

View all 18 components

  • The winners... my thoughts

    Stephen Craver11/28/2023 at 22:28 0 comments

    While I'm grateful that my project won the Assistive Tech contest and secured a finalist slot, it unfortunately did not advance beyond that stage, failing to clinch any of the major prizes

    Nevertheless, hearty congratulations to the deserving winners, and a sincere salute and applause to all the brilliant individuals who contributed their projects to the competition. 

    This contest truly became something special, and it's all thanks to the remarkable entries submitted by these exceptional enthusiasts. They are the true winners.

  • 4-Button controllers? It's half-way thing

    Stephen Craver11/28/2023 at 22:05 0 comments

    The "Logic" controller is designed to accommodate 4 button controllers, whereas my specific chair model originally features a 2-button configuration. Consequently, limited research and development were allocated to integrate 4-button support into this particular main controller.

    I am currently in the process of overhauling the electrical components to facilitate native compatibility with 4-button controllers. My initial considerations suggest the necessity of incorporating an additional two relays, forming a potential 4-relay array. This is contingent on whether I opt not to utilize a custom PCB.

    It's worth mentioning that two additional GPIO channels will be required to govern the newly introduced relays. However, a predicament arises due to the exhaustion of available channels. This situation demands careful reconsideration of my approach.

    Recognizing this challenge, I have identified a solution by repurposing the existing LED controller channels, which currently allow software-based brightness adjustments. By employing appropriate resistor values, I can liberate four channels, addressing the shortfall and offering a feasible resolution.

    Additionally, I am aware of alternative areas where GPIO channels could be sourced if necessary, including two unused limit switches. These considerations underscore the need for a comprehensive reevaluation of the project's design and implementation.

  • The future is bright

    Stephen Craver10/16/2023 at 20:55 0 comments

    There are a number of enhancements that lie in queue for the project's future, such as:

    • True Wi-Fi connectivity. The hardware is already there.
    • A built-in setup routine so modifying the operating system isn't required. Even feasible without a screen  by using audible beeps.
    • Using a phone, tablet, etc. to control the device and an additional way to setup program.
    • Multiple memory positions for multiple people so the chair will know your sweet spots
    • Although currently applicable for other uses such as a hospital bed, van ramp (yes, 12v operation), or multiple others, my desire is to expand this list as I discover where this device can fit in.
    • Do YOU have an idea where it could help someone? GET INVOLVED. Your ideas are yours and will be credited as such.   Contact:

  • Going on a diet

    Stephen Craver09/03/2023 at 16:37 0 comments

    I've chosen to streamline the software by removing certain non-essential features. These are elements that contribute minimal benefits while consuming significant resources like memory and, notably, processing time. It's not to say they won't resurface in the future, but for now, they're in a quiet, temporary slumber.

  • Wi-Fi? Exactly! Why?

    Stephen Craver07/31/2023 at 15:14 0 comments

    I know, it's not a question, but Wi-Fi functionality has been put on hold for now. But not completely abandoned. There are several factors that were involved in making this decision:

    •  Lack of Wi-Fi support for Pico' s file system.
    • The fact that the Pico and its built-in Wi-Fi antenna are now housed within an aluminum case, which severely limits its range

    I'll revisit this sometime in the future, but that functionality can wait for now.

  • Thank-you Hackaday Team, and Esteemed Judges

    Stephen Craver07/20/2023 at 17:57 0 comments

    I am filled with immense joy and gratitude. I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to Hackaday and the esteemed panel of judges for selecting my project as one of the ten finalists in the Hackaday Prize 2023 contest.

    When I embarked on this project, my primary goal was to create something that could not only assist me but also potentially benefit others. To see my endeavor being recognized and chosen as a finalist among numerous exceptional projects is an incredible honor. It truly solidifies my intent and motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation.

    Being part of the Hackaday Prize 2023 finalists is a humbling experience, and I can't help but feel a sense of pride in what I have accomplished so far. This opportunity validates the hard work, dedication, and countless hours poured into the project.

    I am sincerely grateful for the platform Hackaday provides to innovators like me, offering a chance to showcase our creations to a global audience. It's a privilege to be among such talented individuals who are driving technological advancements and making a positive impact on the world.

    I am excited to present my project to the community and the judging panel, sharing my passion and vision with others who share the same enthusiasm for innovation.

    Once again, thank you for this remarkable opportunity. I am truly honored to be a finalist in the Hackaday Prize 2023 contest.

    With warmest regards, Stephen B Craver

  • A look back at the ugly, original, Proof-Of-Concept device

    Stephen Craver07/20/2023 at 17:37 0 comments

    I wanted to share a little journey with you – one that takes us from a cringe-worthy "Proof-Of-Concept" stage to a more promising prototype. Brace yourself because the initial phase was a sight to behold, and I was utterly embarrassed by its appearance!

    As you may recall, when I embarked on this project, I started with a "Proof-Of-Concept" stage. The goal was to lay the groundwork and validate my ideas before diving into the actual prototype. But little did I know that the "Proof-Of-Concept" would turn out to be a visual disaster.

    I remember building it – it was a mishmash of crude components and amateurish design. To put it bluntly, it looked downright horrible! The combination of mismatched materials and a lack of refinement made it seem like a monstrosity. I couldn't help but cringe at the thought of anyone else laying eyes on it.

    Despite its appearance, the "Proof-Of-Concept" served its purpose. I identified numerous flaws, areas for improvement, and gathered valuable feedback. It was a humbling experience, to say the least, but it motivated me even more to push forward.

    I'm excited to share that we've made significant progress since then. The transformation is remarkable, and I'm thrilled to show you how far it has come.

    So here's pictures of the original "Proof-Of-Concept" device, but I must give you fair warning – it might be hard to unsee. However, take solace in the fact that I've moved on from this stage, and the prototype now is worlds apart.

    CAUTION: View at your own risk! (Yes, it's that bad).

  • Logic UP button flowchart

    Stephen Craver06/29/2023 at 20:58 0 comments

  • Moving and re-labeling the lower-limit switch

    Stephen Craver06/19/2023 at 23:49 0 comments

    So I’ve decided that, rather than have a “lower” limit switch, it would be much more advantageous to have a second “home” switch. Who gives a crap how far it's reclined, anyway?

    As such, there would be a “rise” home switch, and a “recline” home switch. If they BOTH are closed, you know the chair is in the “home” position; Not raised and not reclined. This would also make software engineering for it much easier.

    As is, sure it knows it is at the home position, but it doesn't know
    HOW it got there. The “Recline Home” limit switch would eliminate the question.

    Why is this important, and why does it matter?

    So the chair "knows" what to do when any button is pressed: 

    • If the 'recline home' switch is open and you press the logic "up" button, it will engage the up motor until the 'recline home' switch closes.
    • Likewise, if the 'rise home' switch is open you press the logic "down" button, it will engage  the down motor until the 'rise home' switch closes*.
    • Pressing the up button when at home or the rise home is open, it initiates the "up-and-out" process: 
      • Activating the up motor for an adjustable (setup) amount of time. By default, this is 22 seconds.
      • Pausing at the top for an adjustable (setup) amount of time. By default, this is 10 seconds.
      • *Activates the down motor until the 'rise home' switch closes or the "up-and-out" time is reached (22 seconds mentioned above). This is a safety routine in case the 'rise home' switch never closes for whatever reason. 
    • Pressing the down button when at home or the 'recline home' is open activates the down motor for an adjustable (setup) amount of time. By default, this is 8 seconds.

    Of course, pressing any button anytime the chair is in motion will exit the currently running step and halt the chair's motion immediately.

  • The video

    Stephen Craver06/16/2023 at 15:16 0 comments

    This is a more descriptive explanation of the device's operation

View all 22 project logs

  • 1
    Installation, Step 1:

    It's super easy to do the basic installation, no tools needed. Just remember that all jacks are 5-pin DIN connections.

    Important:  If you shop around for 5-pin DIN cables, extensions, etc., note that although MIDI 5-pin cables will  FIT, most will NOT work. This is a limitation of MIDI's design, not this device (or your chair).

    First step, unplug your chair's button array from your chair's main controller (this connection will probably be just another 5-pin FEMALE cable that actually goes to the main controller). This will be a round 5-pin DIN connector.

  • 2
    Step 2:

    Plug your chair's MALE 5-pin DIN connector that you just unplugged into this device's "Main Controller" jack

  • 3
    Step 3:

    Plug this device’s pig-tailed MALE 5-pin DIN plug into where you unplugged your chair's button array from in step 1.

View all 13 instructions

Enjoy this project?



Stephen Craver wrote 06/02/2023 at 21:19 point

UPDATE: I unintentionally lied. I have business that will keep me from posting videos for a couple of weeks. Apologies!!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Stephen Craver wrote 05/15/2023 at 22:59 point

Hi. Sure. I'm putting together a video of the device in action. I'll incluse stills of the chair. 

Expect it by 06/19/2023

  Are you sure? yes | no

hayden wrote 05/14/2023 at 02:56 point

Can you please post photos of the chair.

  Are you sure? yes | no

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