The Chiba prototype overcomes one of wheelchair-bound individuals' most constant constraints
One of the greatest challenges facing our handicapped population is making sure every building is wheelchair accessible. Unfortunately, some buildings are just too old or small to add ramps or lifts. It can be discouraging, but some of the brightest minds in Japan may have found a solution.
At the Chiba Institute of Technology, a group of researchers led by Shuro Nakajima has developed a robot wheelchair that can climb steps. This robot can make a variety of movements using its four-wheel drive and five axes.
Normally it rolls along on its wheels, but if it encounters a ditch or stairs, it can get over the obstacle by using its wheels as legs. All the user needs to do is tell the wheelchair where to go using a joystick.
The robot’s “feet” include a variety of sensors that detect the presence of an obstacle as well as its surface, height or depth.
The robotic wheelchair then automatically assesses the surrounding terrain and adjusts itself appropriately. Also, when moving on uneven ground the robot controls the seat to ensure that it remains level.
In addition, this robot can light up its wheels and extend stabilizers to the left and right enabling it to turn in a circle. This makes it easy to reverse, even in a narrow space.
“For now, we’re presenting this system and form as a concept, and the motion has mostly been worked out,” says Nakajima. “In the next phase, we’ll get a variety of people to try it, so we can fine-tune the user experience.”