'Smart' Wheelchair Uses Cameras To 'Sense' Terrain
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 27, 2006
TSUKUBA, JAPAN--The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has designed what is being described as the world's first "seeing" wheelchair.
The electric wheelchair features a cluster of 36 mini-cameras that sit above the rider's head, and send a 360-degree view to an onboard computer. The cameras capture images in "real time" while the computer determines how far objects are from the wheelchair. If the cameras spot an object or hole in the rider's way, the computer can stop the wheelchair and wait for the rider to gesture to where he or she wants to go next.
Another nifty feature is that the wheelchair can sense changes in the rider -- such as a sudden collapse -- then stop the chair and send a picture of the rider to a designated cell phone number for help.
The developers told reporters that they hope to have the wheelchair ready for the commercial market within the next 10 years.
"Electronic Wheelchair with Next-generation Graphic Sensing System" (MedGadget.com)