Archive for ‘Wheelchair’

New Wheelchair Confronts Obstacles, Stairs

New Wheelchair Confronts Obstacles, Stairs

New Wheelchair Confronts Obstacles, Stairs

At the Chiba Institute of Technology, a group led by Shuro Nakajima has developed a robot wheelchair that can climb over 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 there’s a step or ditch, it can get over the obstacle by using its wheels as legs. All the user needs to do is tell it which direction to go, using a joystick. The robot automatically assesses the surrounding terrain and moves appropriately.

Also, when moving on uneven ground, the robot controls the seat to make sure it remains level.

“The robot has sensors on its feet, to see if there’s anything nearby. 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.”

“If a sensor detects a step, the robot calculates whether it can lift that leg. It can’t raise its wheels right away, so the steering system at the rear makes preparatory motions to gain stability. When the wheels can be raised stably, the robot lifts its legs.”

In addition, this robot can line its wheels up, and extend stabilizers to the left and right, enabling it to turn a circle. This makes it easy to reverse, even in a narrow space.

“We were particular about using wheels, because this kind of vehicle will mostly move on ordinary paved surfaces. The most efficient way of getting around on paved surfaces is to use wheels, like a car. So, this robot mainly uses wheels, but the wheels can become legs.”

“For now, we’re presenting this system and form as a concept, and the motion has mostly been worked out. So, we’re at the stage where we can show this robot to the world. In the next phase, we’ll get a variety of people to try it, so we can fine-tune the user experience.”

Why choose between legs and wheels when you can have both? Well, that’s the theory behind a robotic wheelchair concept from the Chiba Institute of Technology, which uses leg-like motion to conquer obstacles a run-of-the-mill wheelchair can’t. The key is the five axes its base rotates on, allowing individual wheels to be lifted off the ground and moved in a walking style. It can tackle steps and various other obstacles whilst remaining stable, and can even turn 360 degrees around its center with the help of some onboard stabilizers. A gang of sensors on the chair detect incoming obstructions and deal with them automatically, but changes in wheel torque can act as substitute triggers, should the sensors fail. Judging from the video below, it’s pretty advanced for a concept, but its creator wants a bunch of people to try it out so he can “fine-tune the user experience.” It may not be quite as cool as Stompy or the mighty Kuratas, but it’s definitely more practical for a trip to the shops.

For thousands of years humans have been frustrated by the mutual incompatibility of stairs and wheels. Those of us with functional legs have to abandon wheels as soon as we encounter stairs, and so bikes get carried up and down and refrigerator delivery men get nervous when their wheel driven cargo won’t fit in the elevator.

For people using wheelchairs this is not just an inconvenience, but is an impossibility altogether. As a matter of fact, obstacles like curbs and uneven sidewalks are constantly in the way of those in wheelchairs. To address this longstanding problem, Japanese engineers from Chiba Institute of Technology have created an unusual wheelchair that can handle some basic stair climbing and help get over obstacles on the road that would otherwise pose a challenge for traditional wheelchairs. It uses sensors to analyze the topography around itself while the pivoting wheels automatically position themselves to climb over the obstacles.

Source : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2SHKyq5yCU&feature=player_embedded

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