Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Two wheelchair control technology advancements have made headlines this week. One, reported on by BBC Health, involves using a tongue piercing to move your wheelchair. And the other needs little intervention from the wheelchair user at all.
It applies lessons learned from work on self-driving cars to making powered wheelchairs safer and less unwieldy for people who find accurate movements a struggle.
"Robotic Adaptation to Humans Adapting to Robots, (Radhar), was an EU-funded initiative which ran from 2010 until this September. Ian Steadman writes for New Statesman that Radhar has created a semi-autonomous system for wheelchairs.
He says that a wheelchair that drives itself without any intervention wouldn't work. "A better method is to smooth out jerky journeys, estimating where it thinks its owner wants to go and making subtle alterations to the journey route that leaves the user feeling absolutely in control, without the sensation of being ferried around."
Radhar's system uses two Kinect cameras and an onboard computer to do just that.
One camera scans the surroundings and makes a map. The computer uses this to spot obstacles and generate possible routes.
The other camera scans the wheelchair user, "assuming that the destination correlates with the direction of gaze. It also recognises if someone has a part of their body sticking out to the side, and knows to warn of the danger of hitting something as a result".