New Robotic Wheelchair Offers Sight and More Independence
May 27, 2011
A group of students at Sweden’s Lulea University of Technology are working together to design a wheelchair that can help aid with sight for users who have impaired vision. The chair is installed with a haptic robot, which uses a laser that acts as a white cane. The laser scans the terrain and produces a simple 3D map of the wheelchair’s surroundings, allowing the user to feel out obstacles.
“This may be important aids for the visually impaired who are wheelchair users. Many have already been in touch with me and asked if they can come for a test drive,” says the chair’s developer, professor Kalevi Hyyppa. Daniel Innala Ahlmark is a visually-impaired graduate student, who is involved in the project and has helped test out the wheelchair. For one of the tests, Daniel went into a busy corridor at the university with multiple on-passers and doorways.
“I feel safe when I run it, it is like using a white cane,” he says.
There are still many adjustments and discoveries to complete the wheelchair. The laser beam that reads the terrain has trouble analyzing things if they are not at a certain height. Therefore, the team plans on developing a camera that can do a full 3D measurement, and they assume that in about 5 years they will be complete with their design.