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Robot Wheelchair Climbs Steps and Tackles Other Obstacles With 'Legs


"It can also see how far it is from a step."

A new motorized wheelchair made by researchers in Japan could help users get over uneven surfaces -- without the risk of tipping over -- thanks to its "legs."

Although the projections on this wheelchair created by Chiba Institute of Technology function like a leg, it generally rolls as it should. Then, when it comes to an obstacle like a ledge or a gap, it just steps onto or over it. The technology, recently featured on DigInfoTV, is reported to be controlled by a joystick for direction, but sensors allow it to accurately take on the obstructions.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

Watch how it works:

"The robot has sensors on its feet, to see if there's anything nearby," DigInfo reports professor and group lead Shuro Nakajima saying. "It can also see how far it is from a step. It actually has various sensors, and it uses them in combination, to assess how big a step is. Even if the sensors are in error, and the wheels touch an obstacle, the wheel torque can vary, so the robot can use that as back-up, too. In this way, the robot can detect the road surface reliably."

Nakajima also said the sensors can tell if it has enough time to lift a leg before approaching an obstacle. If not, the steering system "makes preparatory motions to gain stability." Only after the wheelchair is stable does it lift a leg.

(Image: YouTube screenshot)

The engineers also equipped the wheelchair with technology that would allow it to turn and reverse in tight spaces. They even included a feature that keeps the seat level even when the robot is going over uneven terrain.

At this point the team working on the robot says they will be conducting user tests to refine the wheelchair's mobility and features.

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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