Robotic wheelchair uses 3D imaging to 'see' for visually impaired drivers

Europe, May 13 2011

You may not be able to control it with your mind, but this robotic wheelchair from Sweden’s Luleå University of Technology can still offer something that only a few others can — “sight.” The chair uses a laser sensor to generate a 3D map of its surroundings, which is then transferred to an on-board haptic robot, allowing the bot to pick up on and navigate its way around any obstacles.

A visually impaired student already took the contraption out for a spin and said he felt “safe” while traveling through crowded corridors, comparing the experience to “using a white cane.” Luleå’s engineers, however, still have some fine tuning to do.

The laser, for instance, can only recognize objects at a specific height, while ignoring everything above or below its field of vision. Researchers are also busy developing a new 3D camera for the chair and are hoping to have it ready for commercial use within the next five years. There’s a full PR waiting for you after the break.


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