Friday, May 13, 2011

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

From Engadget:

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.