Monday, September 5, 2011

Freie Universtat Berlin shows off autonomous electric wheelchair at IFA that uses Kinect

From SlashGear:

One of the things that can be difficult for people that are wheelchair bound is getting around in their own home. Depending on the type of injury that has left a person dependent on a wheelchair the simple operation of controls like a joystick can be difficult or impossible. At IFA, a university from Berlin was on hand showing off a very cool automated wheelchair that uses the Microsoft Kinect sensor and a netbook to navigate around the home.

The wheelchair works by allowing the user or their caregiver or user to set waypoints around the house. The wheelchair will then automatically navigate to the location, such as a bedroom or kitchen and the sensor will see any obstacles in the way and avoid them. This is a particularly good thing for people that are unable to use their hands and require controls that are used with the mouth like a sip and puff system or a joystick controlled using the tongue.

This would mean that a quadriplegic might be able to simply tell the chair where they need to be in the home and the chair would take them or they could use the standard controls to select a location and then the chair would take them. The only downside I see to the design in the video is that the netbook brain of the system would be vulnerable to spills and bodily fluids that could ruin the netbook and leave the chair inoperable.