|Haptic robot guides blind wheelchair driver|
Successful first test drive of “sighted” wheelchair
Research on an electric wheelchair that can sense it´s environment and transmit information to a person who is visually impaired, has been tested at Luleå University of Technology, Sweden. Daniel Innala Ahlmark, a prospective graduate student in the research project, and himself visually impaired, dared to make the first public test.
The wheelchair has a joystick for steering and a haptic robot that acts as a virtual white cane. With the help of a laser scanner a simplified 3D map is created of the wheelchair surroundings. The laser scanner uses Time-of-flight technique. The 3D map is transferred to the haptic robot so that a visually impaired wheelchair driver can "feel or see" obstacles such as open doors or oncoming people, and navigate past them.
The “sighted” wheelchair has been developed by Kalevi Hyyppä, a professor at Luleå University of Technology and his research team at the LTU division EISLAB. The other members of the research team are prospective Ph.D. student Daniel Innala Ahlmark, assistant professor Håkan Fredriksson and Ph.D. student Fredrik Broström.