Laser-guided wheelchair

Electric Wheelchair
Researchers at the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden have developed an electric wheelchair that lets visually impaired users “see” their surroundings.The vehicle uses a laser to scan its environment and create a 3D map of potential obstacles such as nearby people or open doors. It alerts the wheelchair driver to these hazards via vibrating touch feedback, which lets them feel when they need to move out of the way using the wheelchair’s joystick.Daniel Ahlmark, one of the researchers who is himself visually impaired, tested the system last week in a crowded corridor. He was able to successfully avoid obstacles along the way, saying the driving the wheelchair “is like using a white cane.”The chair isn’t quite ready to roll in to production though, as the researchers say there is room for improvement. The current laser system can only sense objects at a certain height, so they plan to develop a 3D camera system instead to fully map the surrounding environment.
Source: www.newscientist.com, May 19, 2011

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